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TIFF Review: What Will People Say

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When an Norwegian teenager disgraces the honour of her family she is kidnapped and taken to their ethnic homeland of Pakistan.

Nisha (Maria Mozhdah) is a self-absorbed and rebellious teenager living in Norway who has little interest in following the traditional Pakistani lifestyle of her parents; an incident with a male school friend severely fractures the family relationship as she has seen as disgracing their honour.  Drastic action is taken and Nisha is kidnapped by her father (Adil Hussain) and taken to Pakistan to live in order learn the traditional ways.

The opening sequence of the patriarch checking that all of the children are asleep in their beds intercut with Nisha running home in an effort to make it in time sets up the existing conflict between Western and traditional Pakistani lifestyles.  What matters the most is how the family is perceived by other members of their ethnic community and when that is threatened by the behaviour of Nisha, she is disowned by them.  Adil Hussain has a difficult role portraying a man who is pushed to the emotional edge by his love for his daughter and the need to protect his social status.  For the most part, he succeeds in avoiding coming across as a raging monster but the nature of his actions are extreme.

Maria Mozhdah who is starring in her first feature film is the real star of the movie.  The car ride which is supposed to lead to the path of reconciliation that becomes something else entirely is worth the price admission.  While sitting in the backseat Mozhdah is able to emote a state of shame that transforms into panic with minimal dialogue.  The shot of a crucial document burning is both beautiful and purposeful to the storytelling.  The documentary style places the audience in the middle of the action.  There is a feeling of authenticity to what unfolds which makes What Will People Say a compelling and damning exploration of cultural and family values.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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