When five sisters go against their conservative society’s values through a seemingly innocent act, they must find their strength and resilience to overcome a community determined to oppress their basic freedoms.
Having lost their parents, Lale and her four sisters are being raised by their grandmother, who is horrified when a neighbour reports the girls were flirting with a group of boys. Their punishment is swift, physical and frightening.
It’s decided that rather than return to school, the girls need to be prepared to be wives, so they are ready for the arranged marriages that will save them before they dishonour themselves and their family any further.
This forbidding scene of overt conservatism and oppression of young women seems as though it belongs in decades past, in some archaic society. That it occurs in a modern village in Turkey is not only disturbing—we are presented with a confronting picture of the reality of the harsh struggle many women still face around the world today.
In the figure of the youngest sister, Lale, we witness a vessel of resistance; but sadly, such individual strength seems destined to be overcome by the entrenched social enforcement of sexism.
Mustang is a powerful story of literal sisterhood, and how the madness that fuels radical conservatism is borne by women in certain societies and cultures.
Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven describes her conflicting feelings about Turkey: ‘Turkey was one of the first countries to give women the right to vote, in the 1930s, and now we have to defend basic rights, such as abortion. It’s sad.’
Her passionate portrait of Lale is her way of resisting this shift towards the oppression of women: ‘It’s because her elder sisters were ensnared that Lale, the youngest, rejects their destiny. She is a condensed version of everything I dream of being.’
Lale faces the toughest challenge, yet her resilience is inspiring. Mustang is equally powerful and tragic in its storytelling, and serves as a valuable reminder of how quickly rights can be lost, how extreme conservatism can defy common sense, and how women, when reduced to sexual beings or procreators, can be silenced.
Ergüven, with her first feature film, has given voice to many young girls struggling to enjoy basic freedoms. Through characters that we can all relate to, the familiarity is frightening and very effective as a reinforcement of why female rights must be fought for and protected.
Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Stars: Gunes Sensoy, Dogba Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan, Erol Afsin
Runtime: 94 mins
Release Date: 23 June 2016
Reviewer Rating: 4/5