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Interview: Iram Haq • Director

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"Free thoughts, free voices – that was my motivation"


- TORONTO 2017: We spoke with Norwegian director Iram Haq whose latest film What Will People Say is world-premiering at Toronto

Interview: Iram Haq • Director

The Platform section of the Toronto International Film Festival this year includes What Will People Say [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Iram Haq
film profile
, the second feature film by Norwegian director Iram Haq, produced by Maria Ekerhovd of Mer Film. Cineuropa met up with the filmmaker in Oslo in a café in Grünerløkka, a popular neighbourhood she is fond of.

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Cineuropa: What Will People Say is a drama.
Iram Haq:
Yes, but the atmosphere is not always sombre and dramatic. It is not an action film but suspense has its place with tension and intense moments. Simple narration, in chronological order, without any flashbacks. It is a classic dramatic staging.

Is it a follow-up to I Am Yours [+see also:
film review
festival scope
film profile
, your first feature film, which was presented at Toronto in 2013?
It is more like a continuation. The intrigue is different. In I Am Yours, Mina, who is a single mother, feels unloved and is finding it difficult to face adversity. In What Will People Say, social pressure plays a more important role. The conflict between cultures, as well as generations, is in focus. My heroine, Nisha, who lives with her parents, wants to maintain good relations with them but also wants to live like young Norwegians her age. The traditions that her family cling to, however, do not allow her to blossom: In her environment, the what-will-people-say is key, and it is tiring and frustrating to have to respect rules imposed by others. Nisha ends up living a double life till the day she is caught in an act that severely violates her family’s values. A moment of crisis that threatens to have major consequences.

Tell us a little about the actors in What Will People Say.
Maria Mozhdah, who plays Nisha, is someone I found after many auditions. She had what I was looking for – besides talent, courage and determination. As her experience as an actor was limited, with worked together intensively. She gained confidence and invested fully in her role. Adil Hussain is a remarkable actor who we have seen in The Life of Pi, where he plays the father. He is surrounded by strong, talented women, actresses or otherwise.

Did you shoot in studio?
Not at all. All the outdoor and indoor scenes have been shot in Norway, Germany, Sweden and India. About three months of shooting with breaks. I really love India and after careful preparation, I went there a number of times on location scouting trips with the cinematographer Nadim Carlsen. I chose to shoot in the region of Rajasthan in the north-west of the country.

In a rural setting?
A world that was neither rural nor urban, simply a small traditional village. My film is intended to be as real as possible, and the actors with their performances and personalities have contributed to the veracity of the whole, coupled by the score that comes from two composers who did not know each other – the German Lorez Dangel and the Danish Martin Pedersen. They came on board at the very last stage of editing because I wanted to be sure of myself, to feel, to really know what music would best suit my film. On the other hand, the editors, the Danish Janus Billeskov Jansen and the Norwegian Anne Østerud knew each other well, having worked together often, most notably on I Am Yours and The Hunt [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Thomas Vinterberg
interview: Thomas Vinterberg
film profile
by Thomas Vinterberg. I was with them through the entire process. Reducing raw footage of over three hours to a hundred and six minutes… I had to leave my heart out of it as you have to be strict with yourself and know where to draw the line.

The media has often talked about episodes that are similar to what Nisha goes through.
I wanted to show the internal aspects, the emotions, the experience as it is perceived intimately, without presenting things in black and white, like a sort of template. My generation is more willing to share their emotions than the previous one. It is important to me to talk openly about what is taboo, of what society forces us to keep quiet about, to make the voice of women heard, to dare to show things as they are – without filters and at the risk of displeasing some. Free thoughts, free voices – that was my motivation to make this film. The cause of women is close to my heart and I feel a sense of responsibility to tell my fellow sisters that they should not be afraid, that they should dare, should speak up and should help each other.

(Translated from French)


international title: What Will People Say
original title: Hva vil folk si
country: Norway, Germany, Sweden
sales agent: Beta Cinema
year: 2017
directed by: Iram Haq
screenplay: Iram Haq
cast: Maria Mozhdah, Adil Hussain, Ekavali Khanna, Rohit Saraf, Ali Arfan, Sheeba Chaddha, Jannat Zubair Rahmani, Lalit Parimoo, Nokokure Dahl, Isak Lie Harr

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Toronto 2017Platform

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