Mustang, the debut film of Turkish director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, is set in Northern Turkey and depicts unbridled freedom of being a teen girl. Because unbridled freedom is also a teen girl’s greatest and most desirable currency, it’s devastating if it’s snatched away—as happens here when the film’s quintet of lovely protagonists, brimming over with joie de vivre, are tamped down by their parents, who appear to become more conservative as the sisters become older and, presumably, begin to discover the allure of boys.
Judging by the trailer, there’s a glimmering, soft-light beauty and eloquence that calls to mind The Virgin Suicides (please forgive me) but instead of the upper-middle-class, American suburban ennui, we have the undertones of encroaching fundamentalism in a country that’s long wrestled with it. Still, that comparison seems unfair; perhaps it came to mind because so few films are made about the relationships and existences of teen girls and how they interact. (Scenes from Girlhood, too.) Mustang, which opened at Cannes to raves and is now the French entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, was certainly a passion project—Ergüven put aside another film to make it, and her graduation short “tells the story of a young Turkish woman (played by Deniz herself) rebelling against the patriarchal attitudes and authoritarianism of the men in her community,” says a press release, and opened “with a shot of a veiled woman blowing a bubble with chewing gum.” Can you wait for this? I absolutely cannot.
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