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Traditional Families Struggle between Old and New Cultures, Who suffers Most?
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer

At what point does a stick break when we bend it?

In the award-winning Danish television-documentary film The Wait, first-time director Emil Langballe tries to open up a political discussion on families who are waiting in limbo to receive their resident permit. The young, beautiful, 14-year-old Rokhsar bears her soul as they follow her through her daily routine in a small village in the countryside of Denmark. The documentary reveals the hardships that this Afghani family has gone through in order to save itself from the death threats of the Taliban. It also shows the daily pressure Rohksar faces since she is the only fluent Danish speaker in her family. She is responsible for managing the communications between the lawyers and the immigration asylum bureau. The threat of deportation looms aver their heads like a black cloud, as they hear tales of other families randomly taken in the night and deported without warning. This would mean the men would be killed by the Taliban and the women would be married off. It is a frightening look into the future which motivates them all to try to stay as long as possible.

Meanwhile she is attending school, has friends and plays on a football team. She is integrated in her new country but somehow that just doesn’t seem to be enough to convince the lethargic immigration bureaucracy to grant them asylum. At one point in the film Rohkar has to ask the Danish community to support her by writing letters. It is clear in the film that the community is willing to do it in her case but they don’t embrace the idea in its entirety. Langballe said that when they showed the film he did not expect such a strong and divided reaction from the Danish society. Watching this film, it is hard to imagine that anyone could not empathize with the situation with this family. Langballe explains, even if they get the acceptance from the immigration asylum bureau, it will be only for two months and the process starts over again. How can the family integrate into the society when they are left hanging? The system is brutal. Due to this film the family did get the two months extension but are not allowed to travel outside of Denmark. The Filmfest Hamburg staff did all they could to have the chance to bring this young girl to Hamburg so she could receive an award for this documentary but it was to no avail.

Set in Norway, the drama, What will People say (Hva Vil folk si), the young 16-year-old Nisha (Maria Mozhdah) faces a dilemma. How can she behave like a perfect Pakistani daughter and be an integrated Norwegian teenager at the same time? They are conflicting roles and, from the beginning, she is already in trouble. She attempts to manage both social circles but once her father catches her in the presence of a boy, her life takes a drastic turn. She soon finds herself kidnapped by her own parents who send her back to their home country to try to re-educate her. The film questions the motivations of the parents. On the one side they want their children to have a better education, more money and, in essence, more freedom and security, but, on the other side, the girls are supposed to be obedient and do as they are told. They are supposed to marry, have children and be submissive to their husbands. So why should they study? Why live in a foreign country which gives them too much freedom? Director Iram Hag cleverly questions the traditional ways of life when it is confronted with a new set of rules. It boldly confronts the audience to have empathy with both parties because the final answer is not so easily found. All the characters are caught between love and tradition and are constantly worried about the communities around them, what will the neighbours say? The film shows how easily a family loses face due to stupid misunderstandings. This is a fantastic film that attempts to reveal the challenges that some of the refugees are facing and it’s not a surprise that it was nominated for two awards.

In the French comedy Some Like it Veiled (Voll Verschleiert), director Sou Abadi confronts us with a topic that we typically are not prepared to talk about. When we see a woman covered in a hijab, we assume several things: Usually we assume that her husband made her do it or we think that the person is uneducated and can’t speak any language except Arabic. Typically we ignore them and certainly would not make eye contact or talk to them. In essence, they are invisible. This film confronts us with all those preconceived prejudges that we have and makes fun of us while we fall into each of the holes that he digs for us. It is a hilarious films, but also an important one, since it teaches us a lesson about tradition and the breaking of tradition. Armand (Felix Moati) and Leila Camelia Jordana have been a couple for quite a while now and are planning to go the US for a holiday. When, suddenly, Leila’s brother Mahmoud (William Lebghil) arrives from Yemen after being religiously re-educated in the strictest way, they are now in for a big surprise. Using his extreme Muslim ideas, Lelia’s freedom shrinks before her eyes. Only Amand comes up with a crazy idea to get close to his beloved Lelia but is it enough to get Mahmoud out of the way?

All three of these films look closely at the current situation in Europe and try to come up with coping mechanisms to try to help women with the change since it is women who actually have the most to gain if everything goes their way, but it can also lead to a road of hell if the traditional men and the system don’t bend.