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'This Is A Coming Of Age Story That Happens To Have A Woman That's Pakistani American': Director Minhal Baig On Apple TV+ Movie 'Hala'

(CBS Local)-- Apple TV+ is one of the many streaming platforms looking to establish itself this year and it's first feature film has a Chicago connection.

"Hala" from director Minhal Baig tells the story of an Pakistani American woman dealing with cultural and family pressure as a high school senior in Chicago. Scenes from the movie were shot in Baig's high school at Northside College Preparatory High School. The director wanted to use her own story and stories of others she grew up with to help shape the narrative of this movie.

"I was imagining some of those locations when I was writing the script and we ended up being able to shoot there," said Baig in an interview with CBS Local's DJ Sixsmith. We shot during the fall and Chicago at that time of year is very colorful and rich and we wanted that to be in the backdrop of the movie.

The film, which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, also features University of Chicago alum and Chicago native Anna Chlumsky. Baig's film takes many twists and turns and the move was intentional in order for people to understand what life is like for a Pakistani American Muslim teenage woman.

"We wanted to surprise people. I wanted us to have some expectation for what this family would be like and then knock those expectations down," said Baig. "She [Hala] is at a stage in her life where she has a certain view of her parents and they've kind of been put into boxes. It's that age where young people see their parents as extensions of themselves and not complex human beings. It's a very life-altering moment when you see your parents as fallible. That changes you in how you find your own identity. She [Hala] is on the journey of who she wants to be and how she wants to present herself to the world."

"Hala" premieres on Apple TV+ on December 6 and Baig says Hala is just like any other teenager that has a difference in opinion of what she wants and what her parents want her life to look like.

"There's a couple layers of the movie. There's the layer of her navigating her culture. Her parents immigrated from Pakistan and there's a definite nostalgia and a longing for a place they no longer live in. At the same time, there is some cultural conservatism that comes into contact with how Hala wants to live her life. There's the other layer of the patriarchal forces at work, even inside the family dynamic. I really wanted it to feel that this family is at times dysfunctional not because they're Pakistani American or Muslim, but because they're a family. All families have some kind of dysfunction in them. This is a coming of age story that happens to have a woman that's Pakistani American and Muslim."

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