DIRECTOR: Deniz Gamze Ergüven STARRING: Günes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan, Nihal G. Koldas, Ayberk Pekcan, Bahar Kerimoglu, Burak Yigit, Erol Afsin, Serife Kara FRANCE/GERMANY/TURKEY/QATAR 2015
The Turkish cinema seems to be experiencing somewhat of a renascence and Ergüven’s debut feature, which was nominated for the Oscars 2016 Foreign Language Film and won four César awards in France, tells an equally tragic and beautiful story. Mustang will slowly lure you into a false sense of innocence watching five young sisters coming of age before its cruel reality daunts on you.
Five orphaned sisters are raised by their conservative grandmother and uncle whose main concern is to keep their virginity hymen intact so they can find them a good husband. When the girls are seen by neighbours splashing around in the sea on the shoulders of their male classmates, their guardians decide that in order to maintain the respectability of the family in the local community, drastic measures must be taken. Spending the summer locked inside, the house gets turned into a “wife factory/prison” with the girls desperately looking for a way out. An atmosphere of feeling trapped with brush strokes of the determination to conquer freedom regardless of the consequences; borderline admirable and self-destructive.
Even though the subject of forced marriages and women’s rights in Turkey can be enraging and the director touches upon a reality which unfortunately doesn’t belong to the middle ages provoking death threats against her and the actresses, the film is not without its light-heartedness and at times the cinematography allows you to paint a different story of young innocence.
What’s really remarkable is that the young girls, apart from one of them, had never acted before and it’s this purity that filters through to performances and makes the overall result relatable.