The first film I saw this year was Mustang, screening in Directors Fortnight, which was a real treasure of a film directed by Turkish female director Deniz Gamze Ergven. She also co-wrote the script with Alice Winocour. It won’t surprise you to know I follow Turkish filmmaking very closely but I’m not sure I have ever seen anything quite like it and I’m confident in saying Ergven represents a bold new voice in Turkish filmmaking. Her first feature, the tale of five orphaned sisters growing up in a small rural village in Turkey, is not a perfect film, but it masterfully captures the explosive joyful energy of youth, the unbearable tension between freedom, control and fear and highlights some very real challenges faced by modern Turkish society. The film is both at times hilariously funny mixed with tragedy, with an exceptional child star performance from 11-year-old Gunes Sensoy.
One dinner table scene is telling: the news is playing on television in the background showing the (real-life) statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey in 2014 that ‘women shouldn’t laugh in public’ if they want to be perceived as virtuous. Hearing this, the giggling sisters (ranging in age from 11 to 16) can’t control themselves and the events that unravel from that moment end simultaneously in tragedy and ultimately in triumph (and yes I am really struggling not to give any spoilers).
Of course, in real life, the ensuing social media onslaught of Turkish women laughing with joy and outrage as response to the comment shows the ultimate harsh duality of life in modern-day Turkey. Mustangs not-so-subtle message of education as saviour is an important one in Turkey today with the most important General Election in years scheduled for June. Deniz Gamze Ergven is one to watch and I’m really pleased that Curzon have acquired the film for the UK.
Ok, enough talk of the films.