What Will People Say by Iram Haq: An #OwnVoices Immigrant Story from Norway

I seized the opportunity to see What Will People Say (Hva vil folk si) at AFI FEST 2017 in Hollywood this past November. I’ve read a lot of immigrant stories that take place here in the United States, but immigrant stories by own voices in Norway are unfamiliar to me. What Will People Say was a very powerful film about a first generation Norwegian teenager born of Pakistani immigrants in Oslo.

The film was written and directed by Norwegian Iram Haq and was inspired by the filmmaker’s own life. Nisha, the film’s main character, is a sixteen year old girl straddling two cultures and living two very separate lives. She’s a typical modern-day Norwegian teen as well as a devoted daughter of traditional Pakistani parents. When caught by her father with her boyfriend, her parents punish her by sending her to Pakistan to stay with family.

The movie is about family, culture clash, honor, and shame. There were many gasp-out-loud moments in this film. There was violence, kidnapping, and sexual assault. It’s a thought-provoking and heart-breaking movie. I highly recommend it. It opened my eyes to a world very foreign to me, a world that could theoretically be right next to me without me knowing it.

The movie won the Audience Award for New Auteurs at AFI FEST 2017. I was hoping it would be on the schedule for Scandinavian Film Festival LA in January 2018 in Beverly Hills, but it is not currently there. It’s a movie I would consider taking my older son to see. Not only would he get a glimpse of modern-day society in Oslo, but he would also learn a bit more about the greater world. Though a movie about a Norwegian teenager of Pakistani parents, her situation is not particular to Norway and can apply to other Western teenagers of Pakistani or Muslim parents.

I highly recommend you seek out an opportunity to see this movie. U.S. rights have been sold to Kino Lorber so we’ll see what that means for interested viewers in the U.S.

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