Mustang: an ode to liberty and empowerment

Mustang's girls laying down on the floor

Mustang may be the perfect feature to help you understand the blunt truth women have to deal with growing up on this land we call home. In her first movie, Deniz Gamze Ergüven, a Turkish director who grew up in Ankara but lived in France most of her life (you can also read her interview here), tells the story of five sisters, aged 11 to 17, who live in a little village near Trabzon in the arch of summer holidays.

Illustration of Mustang's 5 sisters

The film starts in the summer time at the end of the school year, when the girls go to the beach with their friends and play in the sea. They get wet, they laugh, they move through the apple gardens, they eat, they laugh, they’re young, and they’re happy. But as Lale says in the intro “everything changed in the blink of an eye,” everything does. When they come home they find their grandmother very upset because she heard from a neighbor that her grandkids have been ‘inappropriate’ while playing with boys and they need to be punished.

Mustang's five sisters in a car

The girls live with their grandmother and uncle (their parents died years ago) and now have to face the harsh reality of becoming women in a conservative town. Then come some of the many similar and heartbreaking stories we are used to hearing or reading about today’s newspapers in Turkey. These stories sadly become less shocking with the passing time; “yet again, an underage girl kills herself because she was forced to marry someone twice her age”, “yet again, a girl was raped, and to protect the family name, was killed by her own father”, “yet again, a girl was raped and killed because she was ‘smiling encouragingly’”. Mustang tells the story of women, from the perspective of five sisters, each with a different fate, under the same roof.

Even though it tells a sad story with a very real and strong language, we found Mustang to be a joyful movie. Maybe because it’s filled with hope or maybe because of the girls’, and especially the youngest sister Lale’s, naïve and energizing drive for life. Don’t be surprised if you leave the theatre tearful and quite shaken.

Don’t miss it.

Mustang is France’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee submission, has won Cannes Europa Cinemas Label Award, made its North America premiere at the Toronto Film Festival last month and will be in cinemas in Turkey from October 23rd.

Read director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s interview here.

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