April 3, 2016
Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Cast: Nihal Koldas, Ayberk Pekcan, Ilayda Akdogan, Elit Iscan, Tugba Sunguroglu
Runtime: 94 minutes
Language: Turkish with English Subtitles
Chicago International Film Festival: Audience Award; Academy Award, Golden Globe Nominations: Best Foreign Language Film. 30 other award wins, 42 nominations
“A beautifully mounted story about the demonization of young female sexuality in a remote Turkish village.” – Jay Weissberg, Variety
Five teenaged girls living in a seaside Turkish village are having a little too much fun celebrating the end of the school year, innocently frolicking with some boys on the beach. Their punishment? The family patriarch – the uncle who’s raised them since their parents’ death – removes them from school, puts them under house arrest, and starts marrying them off.
The girls try to make the best of their imprisonment by pretending and fantasizing. At one point the youngest sister leads an escape to a football match, where the crowd is all female. The girls next plan to flee to Istanbul, which elevates the film into a tense thriller.
Ergüven empathetically presents the village women – especially the girls’ grandmother – as more bent on protecting the girls than controlling them, but the director is plainly furious with the entire system. (The drama is loosely based on the life of the director.)
That anger, however, never takes over or messes with the craft. Ergüven gets great performances from her cast and creates gorgeous images of the five sisters at play and in repose.
With Mustang, Ergüven has made a fiercely feminist statement into a work of art.