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In 'What Will People Say' A Norwegian Teenager Must Navigate A Clash Of Cultures


Immigration, culture clashes, families divided - all are part of the cultural conversation in this country and also, to judge from a new film, in Norway. The film is called "What Will People Say?," which had us asking, what will critic Bob Mondello say?

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Sixteen-year-old Nisha doesn't stand out much from her Norwegian high school pals. A straight-A student who's hoping to go to med school, she shoots hoops, flirts with boys. At home, though, she's the dutiful daughter in a conservative Pakistani household speaking Urdu at family celebrations, dancing with her doting dad, who does not know she also sneaks out sometimes to dance at clubs.

It's a cultural balancing act, and it slips out of balance when her dad walks in on her cuddling after lights out with a male classmate who's come home with her from the club. By Norwegian standards, this is a very mild teen infraction. They're barely even holding hands. But dad goes so ballistic...


MARIA MOZHDAH: (As Nisha, foreign language spoken).

MONDELLO: ...That a neighbor calls the police. Social workers urge that dad and daughter talk, but the consensus in the Pakistani immigrant community is that to keep other kids from following Nisha into what they see as depravity, she needs to be taught a lesson. Dad bundles her off to the airport, and it's not until she sees the destination sign Islamabad that she realizes what's happening.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Passport.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character, foreign language spoken).

MONDELLO: Filmmaker Iram Haq based this story on her own experience as a young woman in Norway. And as the Norwegian snow gives way to sunbaked Pakistani desert on screen, you'll feel a tug between the awful and the artful. Trapped deep in the countryside where she's told that if she tries to escape she'll be married off and spend the rest of her life milking buffaloes, Nisha is as exotic to the people she encounters as their world is to her. Culture clashes have two sides; remember.

When scandal finds her again, the filmmaker highlights the vast differences in how her virtually identical missteps play out in this new locale - the role of the police, the attitude towards women, the vulnerability of youth, the impact not just on Nisha but on her father who is only, he keeps saying, doing what's best for his daughter.

The gulf between worldviews is wide. And while the director clearly empathizes with Nisha, the one thing she makes clear is how strongly everyone believes their own approach is the only correct one, that of course there are problems when people ignore it. Those problems are inevitable. What will people say? They'll say they saw it coming. I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.