Sunday, 26 June 2016


Madman Films

On a sunny afternoon, five girls -- all siblings -- decide to walk home from school, taking a detour to the beach where they frolick in the water with some fellow (male) students. But by the time they arrive home, word has spread like wildfire -- or Chinese whispers -- and the girls' grandmother berates them for their "indecent" behaviour.

From here on, the grandmother and uncle of the girls, orphaned several years ago, will gradually make their home a prison whilst they attempt to preserve the girls' purity and marry them off; virtual house arrest and virginity tests just some of the punishments and indignities meted out to the vibrant, spirited young women trying to find their way in the world.

That world is modern day Turkey, which, although officially a secular society, boasts a Muslim population of some 95%, with conservative observance more rigid in the rural regions of Turkey, where Deniz Gamze Erguven's debut feature is set. By turns joyous, maddening, sad and hopeful, Mustang isn't so much a critique of Islam but of patriarchy everywhere, which seeks to control women's sexuality, and by turns, their joy, lives and very freedom.

But these sisters aren't so easily imprisoned. Even as the metal bars go over the windows and one-by-one male suitors are brought to the house with the prospect of a marital match, these young women bend, and even break the rules as much as they can.

Erguvan, co-writer Alice Winocour, and the five extraordinary young actresses (Gunes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan) do similar things with your nerves and your heart, so invested are you in the plight of these siblings.

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