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Mustang (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 31, 2020



MUSTANG (2015)

Starring Gunes Nezihe Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan, Nihal Koldas, Ayberk Pekcan, Serife Kara, Suzanne Marrot, Aynur Komecoglu, Sevval Aydin, Enes Surum, Burak Yigit, Erol Afsin, Aziz Komecoglu, Kadir Celebi, Muzeyyen Celebi, Aykut Karatay, Ercan Koksal, Serpil Ucar, Huseyin Baysal, Bahar Karimoglu and Seril Reis.

Screenplay by Deniz Gamze Erguven and Alice Winocour.

Directed by Deniz Gamze Erguven.

Distributed by Cohen Media.  97 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

In theory, at least, it seems a little odd that this year’s French entry for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award actually was filmed in Turkey, with completely Turkish dialogue.

This somewhat biographical tale by writer/director Deniz Gamze Erguven – who was born in Turkey, but long ago relocated to France – is in many ways completely universal, but in other ways tragically specific to the part of the world in which it is set.

It is, quite simply, a look at five young and beautiful sisters from tweens to young twenties, trying to come to terms with normal growing pains like boys, rebellion and getting enough time on the cell phone.  The problem is, these youngsters, who grew up in a relatively progressive area of the country have lost their parents and been sent to live with their uncle and grandmother in an area that believes in a much more strict definition of Islam.

Their lives are turned upside down when the sisters started playing games with local boys down at the local beach, sitting on their shoulders and fighting to knock each other off.  A neighbor woman notices them, wantonly letting the boys feel their skin, and complains to their grandmother.  The grandmother who is traditional, but also does remember what it is like to be a young girl, tries to teach the girls modesty without crushing their spirits.  Their uncle, on the other hand, sure that their family name has been ruined, essentially makes them prisoners in their own homes, eventually even going so far as putting metal bars in the windows and barbed wire fences around the family compound.

Suddenly, these girls, who are used to wearing short, enticing fashions, are forced to wear burkas and traditional, plain garbs.  They are rarely let out of the house.  They lose their cell phones and most modern conveniences.  Even simple things like going to a football (soccer) game are out of the question.

In the meantime, the girls are being paired off for arranged marriages with boys they don’t even know, inspiring mixed emotions from resignation to rage in the girls.

It is a sad, almost shocking story, one that seems impossible at this time in history, but that is still daily life in much of the world.

Erguven has a wonderful visual eye (though occasional scenes of the girls lounging around the house in their underwear border on arty softcore) and ear for the area and the lifestyle.  The story is often tragic, and just occasionally overwrought, but it is also a fascinating look at a shadowy part of the world that does not get enough light shone upon it.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2016 All rights reserved. Posted: January 15, 2016.

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