Stephan StrekerBelgium / France / Luxembourg / Pakistan95 minutes2016ColourFrench Urdu
A teenage girl attempts to juggle the weighty expectations of her traditional Pakistani parents, an unexpected pregnancy, and her own idea about where her life should lead, in this touching and intimate film about obligations and their consequences.
In many ways, Zahira is a typical teenage girl, juggling studies and a busy social schedule. But growing up in a Pakistani family in Belgium, she doesn't always feel typical. We first meet Zahira (Lina El Arabi) in a doctor's office, as she learns what options are available for terminating her pregnancy. Deeply conflicted at the thought of aborting the baby growing inside her, Zahira turns to her childhood friend, Aurore (Alice de Lencquesaing), and her elder brother and trusted confidante, Amir (Sébastien Houbani), for support. Though her family is initially understanding and sympathetic to her situation, it soon becomes clear that they have their own plans for her.
Like her elder sister before her, Zahira is expected to marry a Pakistani man of her parents' choosing. They present her with photos of three distant cousins, assuring her that she has more choice than they did: she'll even have the luxury of chatting with her prospects over Skype. Torn between the desire to chart her life's path and the need to honour her family's cultural traditions, Zahira must decide what she's willing to sacrifice and which world she'll call home.
Newcomer Lina El Arabi shines as Zahira, and writer-director Stephan Streker shoots her in riveting close-ups that draw us into her teenage world, while his script offers insight into the immigrant experience by juxtaposing traditional attitudes with modern ones in dramatic and unexpected ways. Noces serves as a potent reminder that love can at once inspire the most beautiful and the most unthinkable of acts.
This film has been selected for the next generation of film lovers by the TIFF Next Wave Committee.