A highly acclaimed Norwegian film that reveals culture clashes and social control within Norway’s Pakistani community has been selected as Norway’s candidate for Best Foreign Language Film at the next Academy Awards ceremony in the US. The film Hva vil folk si? (What will people say?) was voted as most likely to do well in competition with the world’s best.
The Norwegian Oscar Committee, made up of eight representatives of the Norwegian film branch and the Norwegian Film Institute, cited director Iram Haq’s “relevant description” of how parents can deny their children freedom through social control that stems from conflicts tied to religious and social expectations.
The film received rave reviews in Norway, did well at the box office and was selected to be shown at some of the world’s major international film festivals, not least in Toronto last autumn. It beat out the two other finalists to be Norway’s Oscar candidate: Utøya 22. juli, directed by Erik Poppe, and Blindsone, directed by Tuva Novotny, along with 29 other Norwegian films.
Haq told Nowegian Broadcasting (NRK) she was “overwhelmed” that her film was selected to represent Norway at the Oscars. “This means so very much,” Haq said, also calling it an “enormous opportunity for us to show the film in a bigger market.” She added that she was also “humbled, glad and proud to be able to present the film” to Norway’s Oscar committee.
Her film also recently swept Norway’s own version of the Oscars, the Amanda Prizes at the Haugesund Interntional Film Festival. It’s based largely on Haq’s own experiences growing up in a Pakistani family in Norway under strict control of her family. That’s an experience shared by thousands in immigrant communities, especially young women, who often lead double lives as ordinary Norwegian teenagers and obedient daughters at the same time.
Haq, like the star of her film, was sent to Pakistan against her will after her father found out she had a Norwegian boyfriend. Haq ended up feeling compelled to sever ties with her family, especially as she launched her own career within acting and film.
“This is a story that applies to so many others than me,” Haq told NRK. “There are many girls in the world who experience social control. It has finally become an issue and the film can be shown around the world.” She hopes the film can “give these girls a voice. That means a lot to me.”
Sindre Guldvog, director of the Norwegian Film Institute and leader of the Oscar committee, said he and his collegeagues “have great faith that Iram Haq’s strong film will do well in competition. This is a well-told story that people will recognize in many countries and cultures, and which both reflects the contemporary Norway and reaches out to the world.” The Oscar ceremony itself will be held on February 24, 2019.