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Ignore the summaries....and just see this film.
MartinHafer30 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I've read the summary on IMDb as well as on Netflix and neither really does this film or its story any justice. It's not just a film about a traditional family forcing their girls into's far, far more sinister and evil. Judging by the Netflix summary, it sounds like a comedy...and the film is instead tense, edgy and terrifying at times...not exactly the stuff of comedy!!

The film begins with four sisters (they appear to me to be from about ages 11-16) playing in the water with some boys. But this is occurring in a very traditional part of where innocent play like this is interpreted as evil and sensual. As a result of the family's perceived shame, the grandmother and especially her incredibly malevolent son, decide to crack down on the girls. Instead of continuing in school, the girls are given crash courses in being wives...and the plan is to very quickly marry them off...even despite some of them being incredibly young. What happens next...well, it's something you should see for yourself.

My daughter saw this film at a film festival and she talked to me about it. When she talked with other patrons, she was surprised how women perceived that the girls had been sexually abused by the uncle...whereas men who saw the film didn't get that same impression. I DID think this was the case (probably because of my experience as a therapist dealing with rape victims) but regardless of what he MIGHT have done, what he did do was horrible. The film is an unflinching indictment of traditionalist culture--one where women are essentially powerless. Having been made by an expat from this culture, it has a style and story that seem true and shocking. Very well made and well worth seeing, though the story is anything but fun despite the first 20 minutes or so of the film which is rather light-hearted. Instead, at times, it's heartbreaking and sad....very sad.
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clash of cultures
SnoopyStyle1 September 2016
Sisters Lale, Nur, Selma, Ece, and Sonay are orphans living with their grandmother. They play with the boys on a beach and rumors spread in the conservative Turkish village. Their uncle takes them for a virginity test. Despite passing the test, the girls are locked in the house and stripped of their modern influences. They are forced to learn to be conservative wives. The oldest Sonay sneaks out to be with her boyfriend. The girls want to go to the football match but is forbidden despite being a women only event. They sneak out but when they return, their grandmother makes the house a prison and works to marry each one off. As the noose is tighten, the girls dream of escaping to Istanbul.

It's not really "The Virgin Suicides" although it does follow a story with similarities. It has the reality of religious culture. The ensemble cast is good with a naturalistic style. There is a slow build tension. The cinematic intensity is not high enough for some of the scenes. There is an escape but again the tension is not raised high enough. It's a solid drama especially for the relative newcomers.
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Old traditions, new minds Warning: Spoilers
"Mustang" is a Turkish-language movie from last year that was produced by a whole bunch of countries, including France and it was the French official submission to the Academy Awards this year. It managed to get in at the Oscars well as the Golden Globes (lost twice to the Hungarian entry) and many other awards ceremonies. For writer and director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, it was the first full feature film and she started fairly late being past her mid-30s already now. I guess her being a woman helped with the difficult subject of the film. And with the subject, I mean the way women and girls are treated in the Muslim world, especially in rural regions. It is a sad and really shocking state of affairs that in my opinion really is more structured like a cult and not like a global religion. It is truly embarrassing that stuff like this is legal. When there is no emotional abuse, then there is physical abuse and the other way around. And the saddest thing is that we see the grandmother as a woman who has accepted these conditions and grown old in them.

But the girls and young women will not without resisting and fighting for their individuality in terms of who they love, who they marry, how they spend their free time (going to a football game) etc. There were moments when I personally felt the film was a bit too much against men, but I guess this is just the realistic picture and the truck driver (Burak Yigit, also a familiar face in German films) somewhat saves it for the strong sex. One major criticism I have, however, is the way some dramatic moments were handled. The film was quietly convincing and there really was no reason for scenes like the pedophilia parts or the death of one of the girls. I also felt that they were included fairly randomly. The death scene came pretty much out of nowhere and there were no indicators. Also there was almost no mourning at all, which made it feel just included for the sake of it and not delivering and convincing substance.

But these are just minor criticisms. The ending was dramatic enough and shocking scenes like the whole family wanting to see the blood resulting from the woman losing her virginity were shocking enough already. And these also added a lot to the film, just like the way we see guns in here. Overall, I think this was a good film. I was well-entertained during these 95 minutes and I also felt that this film made an impact in showing us that not everything should be tolerated and accepted if it is under the veil of religious freedom. I am glad the Academy and so many others honored this impressive work. There were only minor flaws like the ones I already mentioned or that I sometimes struggled to keep the girls apart, but that also may be just me. I certainly recommend the watch. "Mustang" was a success and is superior to the overrated film that actually won the Foreign Language Oscar. Thumbs up.
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jboothmillard23 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I only found out about this Turkish-French film because it was included in the Academy Awards nominations, it was rated well by critics, but I was looking forward to making my own mind up about it. Basically it is early summer in a village in northern Turkey, five teenage sisters, are walking home from school, innocently playing with some boys from class on the beach. But their fun becomes an immoral problem when a neighbour passes by and reports what he sees as illicit behaviour to the girls' family. The family overreacts and removes all "instruments of corruption", including their cell phones and computers, essentially imprisoning the girls, and making them do endless housework, preparing them to become brides for arranged weddings. The eldest of the sisters is married, the four younger sister bond to avoid the same fate, the love and passion for freedom between them empowers them to to go against their family, to chase a future they can determine for themselves. Starring Günes Sensoy as Lale, Doga Zeynep Doguslu as Nur, Tugba Sunguroglu as Selma, Elit Iscan as Ece, Ilayda Akdogan as Sonay, Nihal G. Koldas as The Grandmother, Ayberk Pekcan as Erol, Bahar Kerimoglu as Dilek, Burak Yigit as Yasin, Erol Afsin as Osman, Suzanne Marrot as Aunt Hanife, Serife Kara as The Great-Aunt and Aynur Komecoglu as Aunt Emine. This is essentially the story of five girls on the brink of adolescence grounded for hanging out with boys, and the consequences of what is seen as some sort of scandal, the acting is fine, and the scenery of the Black Sea areas are nice, I did trail with some of what was going on, but overall I can see some of why it is praised, a not bad drama. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, it was nominated the BAFTA for Best Film not in the English Language, and it was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Foreign Language. Worth watching!
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Like "Fiddler on the Roof" If "Fiddler on the Roof" Were a Horror Movie
evanston_dad24 June 2016
Though nominated as a French film at the 2015 Academy Awards, "Mustang" tells the story of a group of young Turkish girls who are imprisoned in their own home after they're caught frolicking with a bunch of boys, and are taught how to become obedient little housewives until they can be married off in arranged marriages.

A nightmare example of what happens when parents and guardians do horrible things to their charges for what they believe are the right reasons, "Mustang" starts by establishing a feeling of outrage in its audience at the way these young and free spirits are treated that slowly transforms into one of dread and horror that religious and disciplinary convictions can be taken to such damaging extremes. Most infuriating of all is the jaw-dropping hypocrisy, all too typical in cultures where women are treated as property, of the patriarchal male who shoots off his mouth about modesty, propriety, godliness, you name it, all while raping each young girl as the one before her gets married off.

But "Mustang" also suggests what these same cultures don't seem to get or at least pretend not to: that the natural flow of humanity is toward progress and freedom, and oppressed people more likely than not will eventually have their freedom, no matter how they might have to take it. In that way, "Mustang" is cautiously empowering and modestly hopeful.

Grade: A
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Girl Power
ferguson-631 January 2016
Greetings again from the darkness. Writer/director Deniz Gamze Erguven admits to being inspired by Sophia Coppola's 1999 The Virgin Suicides (though this is not a remake), and by offering us a rare glimpse into the lives of five sisters in a rural community in Turkey, it's clear why the film has been so well received at film festivals – culminating in an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film. It's a bit confusing that the film is credited to France (Ms. Erguven's current place of residence) as it takes place in Turkey and is performed in Turkish. But of course, country of origin is a minor ripple in this year's uproar over diversity at the Oscars.

Not being any type of expert in Turkey culture or customs, I must accept that the insights provided by Ms. Erguven and her co-writer Alice Winocour are somewhat accurate, which makes the balance between the tradition of female oppression and the amazing spirit of the girls so relatable for many. What begins as a seemingly harmless game of chicken the girls play with some classmates (boys) on the way home after the semester's last day of classes, turns into a series of events that most will find absolutely unacceptable. The shame brought to the family and the threat of the girls being "spoiled" highlights the extreme reactions from their grandmother (Nihal G Koldas) and Uncle Erol (Ayberk Pekcan).

Lale (Gunes Sensoy) is the youngest of the sisters and in the end proves to be the toughest and most independent. And that's really saying something. We take in much of what happens through Lale's expressive eyes, and we as viewers long for reasonableness to enter their lives. After being what can only be described as imprisoned in their own home, the spirit of the girls collectively and individually becomes clear. They find ways, small and large, to rebel … but it's soon enough clear that the mission is to marry the girls off before it's too late (there's that "spoiled" thing again).

As Lale witnesses what her older sisters are subjected to, and how happiness or their own wishes play no role, she becomes more determined to avoid such destiny. With skewed perspective, one might make the argument that Grandmother and Uncle are doing what they think is in the long term best interests of the girls, but the Uncle's despicable actions void any such thought. Instead we are left to marvel at the strength and spirit of the girls in world that holds them in such low regard as individuals.

Lale's sisters are Sonay (IIayda Akdogan), Nur (Doga Zeynep Doguslu), Selma (Tugba Sunguroglu) and Ece (Elit Iscan). The girls are so natural together that we never doubt their sisterly bond. They argue like sisters, defend each other as sisters, and play together like sisters … were it not for their isolated existence, their bond would be a joy to behold. The cinematography throughout the film adds to the discomfort and dread we feel, and the acting is naturalistic and believable. In the end, it's the unbridled freedom of the titular creature that Lale defiantly embraces … whatever the consequences may be.
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Five Girls. One Solution.
anaconda-406583 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Mustang (2015): Dir: Deniz Gamze Erguven / Cast: Gunes Sensoy, Doga Doguslu, Elit Iscan, Tugba Sunguroglu, Ilayda Akdogan: Set in Turkey with five orphan girls desiring a life outside tradition. We are introduced to five girls overseen by their strict grandmother and an aunt and abusive uncle. Their destiny seems to be aimed at an arranged marriage. They are locked up and sheltered away from any form of sexual conduct but they also seem to regain freedom. The first sister tearfully accepts her duty as a bride while the second goes along with it without a hitch. Tragedy strikes when third girl decides that this is not her calling. It leaves two left. The youngest is most adventurous and is befriended by a driver who teaches her the ropes behind the wheel. She is played with high spirited energy by Gunes Sensoy and her adventurous side rebels against her family tradition when she and lone sister board themselves up in the house to fend off their family and a wedding that neither desires. This sequence is gritty as the two girls search drastically for freedom. This is extremely low budget but the cast and characters are what make this film enjoyable. They shred the ugly brown garments they are forced to wear in favor of more sex appeal but they are trapped behind steel bar windows and watchful eyes. Only Sensoy can picture freedom over the horizon despite obstacles. She is the divider between tradition and the desire to merge forward to a life of no abuse and where opportunities hold promise and a future where choice has the opportunity to be an option. Score: 9 / 10
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Girls will be girls except when they can't.
jdesando13 January 2016
"If they are sullied it is your fault!" Dad to Grandma in a religiously-conservative Turkish household.

Five beautiful Turkish sisters in the exquisite film, Mustang, endure torture sometimes mentally unbearable (for them and the audience) as they suffer the consequences of playing innocently in the sea with a few lads. Grandma, as you can see in the quote above, suffers as she wrestles with the old against the new.

While I have heard that around the world conservatism can be unfair to women, this Turkish setup is both realistic and unreal at the same time: Marrying off young women as a way of curbing their youthful vigor—strict but effective in a conservative world where virginity before marriage is a necessity and non-virginity a death sentence, at least metaphoric and sometimes literal, I fear. A scene in the hospital checking a girl's virginity after her honeymoon is disturbing.

Writer/director Deniz Gamze Erguven and writer Alice Winocour have crafted a story for the ages about how women continue at the hands of patriarchs and the establishment to suffer the loss of freedoms we take for granted. Pre-teen Lale (Gunes Sensoy) witnesses the steady peeling off of her sisters for marriage while she plots an exit she hopes will scale the iron gates and gratings her Uncle has constructed to short-circuit their rampant joie-de-vivre.

It's not so much the realism (but unreal beautiful girls—now, come on casting, do they have to be that good looking? Hey, wait, my 5 daughters were!). That bit of implausibility is neutralized by a sense of conservative Turkish life as accurately showing the prisons young women can inhabit, called home. Each occurrence of sisters' showing spunk or plain life seems countered by old women steering them into lives of virtue, namely serving men.

Yet, girls will not easily be contained: Young Lale secretly learns how to drive in order one day to bolt to liberal Istanbul. The film balances this rebellion against the girls' increasing imprisonment. Although some might liken the Mustang girls to the five Lisbon sisters of Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides, the difference is in the cultures: The Lisbon sisters were living some of the dream, and the Mustang girls never had it at all.

Then there is my favorite Australian film, Picnic at Hanging Rock, in which school girls vanish into the rock. That's probably figurative for the evanishing innocence of teenage girls but more probably how some cultures are hell bent on making women just fade away.
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Socially riveting tale
Red_Identity12 February 2016
A film like this can work on many levels, and surely not just on a basic entertainment factor. It's intriguing because it sets up situations and dilemmas that different sections of the world may entirely reveal shock at it, but these sort of situations can be unfortunate for all involved. Gender issues are at the forefront here and the writing cleverly touches on the issue, along with sexuality as a whole, while creating well-developed characters that serve to guide us through the fascinating, intriguing tale. The entire film is well-directed, a lot of nuance in the proceedings as well as a delicate hand that may have spiraled out of control in the hands of another director. The acting is also uniformly good, and all of the young female characters (in particular the lead) handle the heavy material really well.
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A Fearless Celebration Of Womanhood And A Timely Exploration Of Patriarchy & Conservatism
CinemaClown1 April 2016
Undeniably amongst the most powerful, provocative & pragmatic narratives to surface on the silver screen in recent years, Mustang is a beautifully balanced blend of skillful direction, sensible writing & terrific performances that takes a much-needed dig at patriarchy & conservatism and also works as a joyful celebration of sisterhood.

Set in a small Turkish village, the story of Mustang follows five young orphaned sisters whose lives are changed completely when they are caught innocently playing with some boys on a beach, after which their conservative family bars them from going to school anymore and begins marrying them off one by one without their consent.

Co-written & directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven in what is actually her feature film debut, Mustang takes only a few minutes to establish the strong bond between the siblings before stepping into the realm of absurd social & cultural restraints that snatches away their freedom in the blink of an eye and every restriction imposed upon them turns out to be both nonsensical & unnerving.

The screenplay is no slouch either for it packs in an engaging storyline that smoothly unfolds over the course of its runtime and is filled with meaty characters whose arcs are well-defined plus they exhibit surprising depths. Ergüven's never goes in-your-face with her critical stance on orthodox mentality but simply exposes the challenges women face when growing up in such communities.

The technical aspects are thoroughly refined and work in harmony to further uplift the film's tone & ambiance to its desired level. Camera is expertly utilised, always keeping its focus on the relevant characters, while the bright colour palette reflects the strength & joy the sisters find in each other's company even in the bleakest of circumstances. And editing is immaculately carried out as well for every sequence plays a vital role in the story.

Coming to the performances, Mustang features a relatively inexperienced cast but the contribution from the five girls who play siblings in this feature is a highlight in itself. The scripted characters do have some flesh on them, thus providing a solid platform for the actors to built their performances upon but they further up the ante by delivering wonderfully layered & highly convincing inputs that makes all the relevant characters in the film stand out.

The story is told from the perspective of Lale, the youngest of the five siblings, and it's through her eyes that we witness the injustice she & her sisters are subjected to yet what keeps them together is their common passion for freedom & constant pursuit of ways to bypass the restrictions imposed upon them by the elders. And it is this rebellious nature that slowly accumulates as plot progresses & finally concludes with an act of self-preservation that finishes the tale on a hopeful note.

On an overall scale, Mustang is an ingeniously crafted, meticulously layered & deftly measured cinema that's engaging, entertaining & enlightening on more levels than one and for a first time filmmaker, it's an incredibly polished effort. Ergüven's direction exudes both confidence & composure and the story as a whole manages to make its voice heard loud & clear. A fearless celebration of womanhood & a heartfelt rendition of the indomitable will of human spirit, Mustang is a timely & welcome coming- of-age story and is essential viewing in every sense of the word. Don't miss it!
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The clash of culture and modern lifestyle.
Reno-Rangan14 May 2016
This is a Turkish film with the Turkish cast and crew, but financially co-supported by France. So it was nominated for the 88th American Academy Awards to represent France, after the Turkish film board denied to pick it. The film is set in the rural that tells a story of five young orphaned sisters who were raised by their stereotype grandmother and strict uncle. It depicts how those girls grow up without the parental supervise which is more essential than under others care and challenges they face due to difference between modern lifestyle they want to adopt and old traditions they inherited.

I know everybody comparing it with 'The Virgin Suicides' and so I thought the same because that's what everyone thinks who had watched these two films. There are some similarities between these two titles, but not the same film, that's very clear. Because of the cultural difference they slightly drew a different storyline, other than that the core of the story remained same. Written and directed by a woman filmmaker, so the narrative was very good that details the issues surrounding women. Especially about the impact of the lives when people nose into others affair.

It opens when the five sisters were punished by their grandmother after the report came from their neighbour lady for them playing on the beach with the boys. Thereafter their life changes and day by day their happiness declines for the severely imposed rules against them in the house. Later, one after another, they all forced to marry the groom they have chosen for them in a traditional way. But the youngest among them all is the most rebellious, so when her sisters were enforced, she plans to fight back and that's the remaining story that tells what happens with the remaining sisters.

"I don't care about the match, I want to get the hell out."

They say Turkey is more a Europe than the middle-east, except being an Islam nation. But this film briefs the domestic abuse in the name of culture and religion on the young generation. The truth is, there is an upcoming culture of the future among the youngsters of the human earthlings in the line of one planet, one culture. That is nothing, but getting themselves free from the thousands of years old rules. Obviously, in this advanced science and digital world, they're completely outdated, especially Islam is struggling to cooperate with the future world. From that perspective, this film narrated a wonderful, an eye opening tale.

I have heard the Turkish origins who had watched the film arguing about what it depicted is not true. I know that they know better than me on this, but what I want to tell is that any nation and its people go through this kind of cultural struggle/revolution. Especially in the remote places who are cut off from the modern lifestyle in their daily routine, and when the chief of the house is an elder person who is very conservative. Whatever the advanced country is Turkey among other Islam countries, there's still the gender equality issue's persist due to the religion. Of course not the whole nation, but among the orthodox families. That's the same fate of other nations and its religion as well that has to change.

I have seen many Turkish films and this was very different from those, especially it digs on the positive and negative impacts of the old cultural practice which questions is it really necessary to carry on in this modern world? I am not a religious person, and I have no problem with the people of faith, but my take on this might really irk them. The elders should give chance to choose what their youngsters want, of course with supervised, instead forcing them to do everything in the old way what they and their parents did decades and centuries ago.

Yep, the film deserved it's Oscars nominee, but it did not win the prestigious award and that's okay because a better film bagged it. This director is going to have a great future in the filmdom, like the next Sofia Coppola. I hope her next work would be an international project. In the meantime, if you haven't seen it, give it a try, it is a good film that briefs in the line between the past and the future, there is present that ever exist where everything happens like the pains of the past, the present revolution and the future plan.

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Industrialization requires the liberation of women
Dr_Coulardeau29 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A very important film and there is very little to say about it. Turkey, five daughters (and sisters) are being raised by their grandmother because their parents are dead. The grandmother is helped in that task by the girls' uncles. We are in a small city or big village. The girls are wild and the grandmother is probably not up to her task. So the uncles take over when some rumor starts spreading. The girls are locked up in the house, taken away from school, which shows education does not seem to be compulsory for girls, and the uncles decide to get rid of them by marrying them. They marry two. The third one commits suicide and the last two will have to elope and that is going to be difficult.

There is little mention of Islam behind because we are not dealing with Islam here but with a traditional agricultural society where the family is sacred and the girls are the best possession a family has to improve their lot in society by marrying them with an important dowry to a man who is from an important family and who has an important position himself. Marrying the girls is nothing but improving the status of the family. This has been a characteristic of all agricultural societies in the West and it caused the development of a conflict if not unrest when they started turning industrial, and Turkey is part of that West and they are going through that very phase in social development.

When I have said that, there is nothing else to add. They had the same situation in Southern Italy just twenty years ago. Portugal is not much better off on that question and twenty years ago girls had to be married fast and from the day after their marriage they were supposed to dress in black.

What I regret is that the audience is reacting to a film like that as if that was typical of Islam and any Muslim society. And that is a lie. It is typical of all societies that shift from agriculture to industry and in which the family is the core of social hierarchies and prestige. The point for a country like Turkey is that the change that took about four generations if not more in Western Europe and definitely more in the agricultural plains of the USA has to be done and finished within one generation. The shift is directly from total submission for women to eloping, fleeing and escaping.

It is thus an interesting film but nothing really to change the face of history. When Ataturk decided to westernize Turkey in the 1920s he set Turkey on that road and industrialization has only started to really penetrate this country some thirty years ago. The change that is happening at record speed right now explains the desire of the Turks to keep some balance and that's probably why they turn toward some traditional conservative mildly Muslim party who can more or less guarantee that the change will be done without a blood bath nor a complete destruction of traditions and cultural references, including of course the religious reference.

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Misogyny in Turkey
Red-12522 March 2016
Mustang (2015) was co-scripted and directed by the female Turkish director Deniz Gamze Ergüven. Alice Winocour, the French screenwriter and director, co-scripted the film. (It's considered a French film, set in Turkey.)

In the first scenes of the film, five teenage sisters are walking home from school, and they can't resist taking a detour to a beach. Some teenage boys join them, and they enjoy some splashing and roughhousing. By the time they get home, a neighbor has reported this outrage to their grandmother, and they are severely chastised. They receive a tongue lashing (and possibly more) from their uncle, their phones are taken away, their computer is disconnected. They can no longer leave home. In fact they are literally under house arrest, because the windows and doors are barred.

The sisters are spirited, intelligent young women. They make the best of their situation while they try to overcome it. You applaud their spirit not to surrender, but the yoke of the traditional society is immensely heavy.

The acting of the cast is outstanding, and the film is well crafted. Their are comic moments, but for me the entire movie was a grim reminder of the plight of women in a harsh, traditional society. Remember--these are not women in some small, isolated community. They are modern women trapped in a non-modern milieu. I found the film discouraging and sad, more than an uplifting tribute to the human spirit.

We saw Mustang at the excellent Little Theatre in Rochester, NY. It will work on the small screen.

P.S. Mustang was selected as the French entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards
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Displays an intimacy that breathes love and affection
howard.schumann6 June 2016
"I feel the air flowing for life's in full swing, so tell me why I cannot breathe" – Kate Rusby, Fallin' Since the dawn of human history, men's ability to suppress the rights of women has been a measure of their power. Despite our social advances, even today women are often put into categories such as, as author Estela Welldon describes it, "Mother, Madonna, or Whore." Accusations of being either cold and prudish or seductive and manipulative obscure the fact that sex for women is as natural and healthy a form of self expression as it is for men. Unfolding against a backdrop of adolescent sexual repression, rebellion, and loss of innocence, Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven's magical first feature Mustang tackles the issue of gender inequality that women all over the world have to confront, the title symbolizing their strength and untamed spirit.

Co-written by the director and Alice Winocour, the film is set in a rural Turkish village near the Black Sea, and takes place in a conservative patriarchal culture that discourages the expression of femininity other than in fulfilling traditional gender roles. Though Mustang is filmed in Turkey and spoken in Turkish, because France is the director's adopted country, it was France's entry for the Oscars Best Foreign Language Film award in 2016. In the film, five orphaned teenage sisters, Lale (Güneş Nezihe Şensoy), Nur (Doğa Zeynep Doğuşlu), Ece (Elit Işcan), Selma (Tuğba Sunguroğlu), and Sonay (Ilayda Akdoğan) are being raised in the countryside by their uncle Erol (Ayberk Pekcan, "Winter Sleep") and their grandmother (Nihal G. Koldas, "Kuma"). Though sad that their favorite teacher (Bahar Karimoglu) is going to Istanbul, the girls enjoy the final day of their school year, engaging in horseplay with local boys in waist-deep water.

Their joyous exuberance is turned into something dirty, however, by a local gossip who accuses them of sexually touching themselves against the boys' necks and, of course, it is the girls who must pay the price. As an innocent game becomes the catalyst for intimidation, the girls are taken one by one by grandma to check their virginity and are subject to beatings from their overbearing uncle. Anything potentially corrupting is taken away such as their cell phones and computers along with their makeup. Expressive, often skimpy outfits are substituted with ugly, shapeless, colorless dresses that destroy their vibrancy.

The restrictions become even more blatant after they sneak away to attend a soccer match, even though the crowd is all female (men have been refused entry after a riot). Though Erol didn't see them at the game thanks to a relative who sabotages the electricity to the entire village, their act of rebellion is the last straw for the grandmother. The house becomes a prison as bars are put on the windows and a group of local women arrive to teach the girls cooking and housekeeping in preparation for their preordained role in life as wives and mothers. The situation is promptly described by the feisty Lale who asserts that their home has become a "wife factory," and that their key function will be to produce children.

Even sadder, there are darker things going on which are not shown but are implied when we see Uncle Erol going into Nur's room at night, after which the grandmother hides the sheets. Most likely aware of what's going on but powerless to prevent it, she begins to arrange marriages for each one of them. Sonay rebels and insists that she will only marry her boyfriend Ekin (Enes Surum) which is agreed to. Selma, however, is not so fortunate. After her marriage to a boring partner, she is forced to undergo a gynecological examination when there's no blood on the sheets, despite her repeated and truthful assertions that she is a virgin. While the forced marriage plan is partially successful, it leads to tragedy that we are totally unprepared for.

Anticipating that she may need to escape this prison before she is also ground down into the passive, compliant woman the family desires, Lale is secretly taught how to drive by Yasin (Burak Yigit, "Victoria"), a friendly neighborhood truck driver and her thoughts turn to other possibilities. Mustang is marked by outstanding performances by the five sisters who display an intimacy that breathes love and affection. Though the film deals with disturbing subject matter, it is not a depressing film. The remarkable performances by these outstanding young women and the connection they have with each other is exhilarating as is their willingness to assert their individuality and their humanity in the face of ignorance masked by good intentions.
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Downbeat Account of Village Life in Northern Turkey
l_rawjalaurence27 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Set in a remote village in Kastamonu, northern Turkey, about two hundred kilometers from the capital, Ankara, MUSTANG is the story of five daughters finishing school at the end of the summer and trying to cope with their family's demands. Custom dictates that once a girl reaches a certain age, she should be married off; hence the three oldest daughters are exposed to the ritual of meeting their partner (chosen for them by their family) and his family and listening to the groom's family asking for her hand in marriage. Rings are exchanged; and everyone looks forward to the festivities, when the entire village has a wild party, the men fire shots into the air, and the "happy" couple enjoy themselves ... that is, until the dreaded wedding night ritual.

Deniz Gamze Ergüven's debut feature takes an even-handed approach towards its material. While certainly sympathizing with the girls (the narration of Lale, the youngest (Güneş Şensoy) provides an accurate indication of their feelings), the director also makes it clear that the arranged marriage of a teenage girl is part of the village custom. Nobody ever dares to challenge it, because that might destroy the fabric of everyone's lives. Western audiences might consider it a primitive ritual that does not take the girls' feelings into account, but this is a different culture with its own particular traditions. The grandmother (Nihal G. Koldaş) makes this point clear when she tells Nur (Doğa Zeynep Doguşlu) that she was married as a teenager many years previously and "grew to love" her husband once the knot had been tied.

Yet MUSTANG also has some trenchant points to make about the ways in which such traditions can be abused. Uncle Erol (Ayberk Pekcan) turns out to be a sadist as well as an abuser, whose sole response to the girls' wanting some kind of freedom is to build higher and higher walls round the house and install bars across the windows. This is a futile gesture; the more he creates a prison, the more the girls try to escape from it. There is a touching sequence early on in the film as all five daughters escape from their home and catch a bus taking female soccer supporters to Trabzon on the Black Sea coast to watch a match. Their enjoyment is both palpable and welcome.

In the end Nur decides not to go through with her arranged marriage; together with Lale they barricade themselves in the family home and manage to escape Uncle Erol's clutches at last. No one - least of all the viewers - knows precisely what will happen to them, but they have at least managed to exercise freedom of choice. The downside, of course, is that they have also endangered the stability of their village community. This ambiguity is not resolved by the film's end.

Director Ergüven coaxes some remarkable performances out of her five youthful actors as the daughters. Her cinematic style is brisk, even though there are perhaps too many extreme close-ups that draw our attention away from the characters' expressions rather than focusing on them. Nonetheless MUSTANG is a powerful film, a Turkish version of JEUNE ET JOLIE (2013), perhaps.
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The heartbreaking Turkish equivalent of "The Virgin Suicides"
paul-allaer20 January 2016
"Mustang" (2015 release from Turkey and France; 97 min.) brings the story of five sisters. As the movie opens, we see them saying goodbye to a teacher who is moving to Istanbul, 1,000 km. away. On the way the girls are horsing around in the ocean with some boys, and when they get home, their grandma has already heard about it and is infuriated, as is later their uncle ( we learn the girls' parents perished 10 years ago). Grandma and Uncle Erol have only one thing in mind: to keep the girls 'pure' and away from anything that might tempt them in any way. The girls, on the other hand, simply want to play and have fun and be the teenagers they feel they are. What will happen to the girls? To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is the feature-length directing debut of Turkish actress Deniz Gamze Ergüven, who also co-wrote the screenplay. And what a memorable debut it is! She lets the scenes unfold, and slowly you the viewer are beginning to understand where this is leading to. The stifling and suffocating morality and family environment within which the girls need to live will leave you bewildered, yet it is sadly the reality for millions and millions of girls growing up in a conservative religious environment (and not just Muslim). Along the way the five sisters will steal your heart, while the "mustang" in each of the girls must be tamed! The movie's overall atmosphere made me think of Sofia Coppola's "The Virgin Suicides", even if "Mustang's ending is nothing like it. The acting performances are superb throughout, in particular from the young lady who plays Lale (the youngest sister, and the movie's emotional lynch-pin). I found myself emotionally invested in this movie from start to finish. It is not a surprise then that this was just nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Movie, as it is a fantastic movie, period (although I still am quite certain that "Son of Saul" will win that Oscar category). Last but not least, there is a wonderful musical score for this movie, composed by Warren Ellis (and yes, there are also a couple of Warren Ellis & Nick Cave tunes in it, plucked from "The Road" and "The Assassination of Jesse James").

The movie opened this past weekend on a single screen in Ft. Myers, and the early evening weeknight screening where I saw this at was attended quite nicely, much to my delight. If you love a top notch foreign movie, you cannot go wrong with this. "Mustang" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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Real good movie
subxerogravity19 January 2016
For me it was an intense story that felt like a warped nursery rhyme of fable.

Five little sisters, quickly becoming woman, before they even get to connect naturally what is happening to them, they are being force into marring men they don't know, which makes the youngest of the sisters react drastically.

It's a very hash look at a social culture that is upsetting to realize still exist like this. I kind of hope that the filmmaker was being a least slightly over dramatic with the treatment of this girls, but It would not surprise me if all of this was an accurate portrayal.

It's a well put together story and a well put together film.
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Turkish born but French raised co-writer/director only captures the facade of a patriarchal Turkish culture
Turfseer20 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Mustang was directed and co-written by Turkish born Deniz Gamze Ergüven, who actually grew up in France. The official film organization in Turkey refused to submit Mustang for Oscar consideration so France ended up submitting it to the Academy and it's now been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. A multitude of film pundits have praised the film no end but have any of them asked how true is Ergüven's story? A casual perusal of the majority of posts on IMDb by Turkish natives maintain that Ergüven's view of the way things are in Turkey as depicted in the film, is inaccurate and superficial.

Mustang is set in İnebolu, in northern Turkey, near the Black Sea. The story concern five sisters who live with their uncle and grandmother in a provincial, conservative town. When we first meet them, the youngest sister, Lale, says goodbye to her teacher who is moving to Istanbul. Propped up on the shoulders of some of their fellow male students, they attempt to knock one another into the water, as they frolic in the ocean. Later word gets back to neighbors that they've been acting inappropriately with "boys" and they're first castigated by their grandmother and later physically abused by their uncle. Ultimately they're forbidden to leave the house and no longer allowed to attend school.

So at this juncture, what's wrong with this picture? As those posters from Turkey point out, the girls don't act like girls who are from the provincial Black Sea area—they're more like girls from an urban environment. Their accents (according to these posters) don't sound right either. Others on the internet liken the girls to the characters in Sophia Coppola's "The Virgin Suicides" and their behavior seemed to me more akin to frat girls in the cheap American exploitation flick, "Girls Gone Wild." Ergüven is clearly the outsider looking in and can only imagine what provincial girls in that part of the world are really like. Most teenage girls have a rebellious streak but would they act out in the manner depicted here—especially when they are growing up in an abusive home? I think not.

What also doesn't ring true is that girls were never reigned in by the grandmother and the abusive uncle when they were very young. They show no fear of retaliation as everything is one big joke—but in a conservative, patriarchal society, one is taught to fear retribution. Therefore, their rebellion would probably take a much more subtle form and they would not be allowed to act out in the way that is depicted here.

As the plot progresses, we realize that Ergüven's approach to character is didactic. The grandmother is also a victim of male perfidy as the uncle holds her responsible for the girls being spoiled. The grandmother's affinity for the arranged marriages is clearly a response to her perception that the uncle is sexually abusing his nieces—marrying them off is her way of protecting them. At the same time, she's intimidated by the uncle, who is basically a cardboard villain in the storyline.

I have no doubt bad things happen to women all over the world and especially in places where sexuality is viewed as something dirty. Ergüven knows about arranged marriages and wisely shows the conflicting attitudes of the first two sisters who are married off (one is ecstatic since she's matched up with her current lover; the other is sullen as she has nothing in common with a husband to be who is a virtual stranger). Still, I would have liked to have known a little bit more about the grooms and the family members. We see them at a distance and one gets the feeling that Ms. Ergüven doesn't know these people hardly at all. She's been quoted as saying that Mustang is a "fairy tale"—but it's clear her story is one of "us vs. them"—agitprop for those who simply want to be on the winning side of a very complex cultural problem.

As for the rest of Mustang—I say spare me the "feel good" histrionics. It all comes down to a most improbable escape on the part of the two younger sisters after another one of them commits suicide. Yes maybe something like that happened on one or two occasions in real life, but I would still say, "not likely." Next time ditch the super villain of an uncle, scratch the suicide and show us the sisters as normal teenagers living in a culture which they feel part of but also yearn to have more opportunities in a society filled with less oppression.
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andrewchristianjr25 February 2020
You feel for these sisters and really root for their freedom and happiness. It's depressing as hell, but the acting is spot on from an otherwise unknown cast. Women should watch.
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Coming of age the conservative way.
frankde-jong12 April 2020
Many critics compare "Mustang" with "The virgin suicides" (1999, Sofia Coppola). I have never seen that film, but reading the plot of "The virging suicides" I think the comparison is quite adequate. My personal comparison was with "Wadjda (2012, Haifaa Al-Mansour). In "Wadjda" a girl from 10 years old is a little tomboy and prefers to play with boys. This meets with disapproval in the Saudi Arabian town were she lives.

In the beginning of "Mustang" five sisters from the Turkish countryside fool around with some male fellow students at the end of the school season. Because the average age of the sisters is a couple of years older than 10 this meets not with disapproval but outright panic (despite the fact that the fooling around looks quite innocent in Western eyes). The girls are imprisoned in their own home and the plan is to arrange marriages for them one by one.

A few month ago I saw "Little women" (2019, Greta Gerwig). An important part of this film also deals with the March sisters trying to find the right husband. Their aunt does not have a very feminist view as she emphasizes that the most important aspect of a husband is being an income guarantee for his wife. In "Little woman" the sisters may be encouraged to find a man, it is at least left to them to find a man of their own taste. Nothing of that kind in "Mustang", where it is all about family and honor and the preferences of the individual are of no importance. Girls have nothing to say about their future man, but boys have equally little to say about theire future wife. The main difference between the sexes is that it is always the girl who is to blame for licentious behavior. Either she did it or she provoked it.

"Mustang" is strong in the imprisonment phase. The reason for the imprisonment was rather innocent (in Western eyes), but soon the girls start behaving less innocent. Their imprisonment acts as a catalyst for their sexual awakening, and this part of the film is quite sensual.

"Mustang" is less strong in the part of the arranged marriages. Every sisters reacts differently, but because we see the events through the eyes of the youngest sister the differences between the sisters is pushed too much into the background.

One of the strong points of "Wadjda" was for me the alternation of comic and serious plot elements. In "Mustang" this is a weak point, because there is not really an alternation. There is only one comic episode (the football match) in an otherwise serious film. The comic episode therefore feels out of place.
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Truly Amazing
proud_luddite1 July 2018
In a small Turkish seaside village, five orphaned, school-age sisters live under the care of their traditional grandmother and uncle. The girls' free spirits lead their elders to force them into a domestic prison and prepare them for arranged marriages.

At first glance, one is tempted to compare this film to "Fiddler on the Roof". They both involve five young sisters who have no brothers and the main plot point is to have the girls "married off" according to cultural customs that are outdated and oppressive. The main difference is that in "Fiddler", the villains are outside the family and community; in "Mustang", they are within. (It is also easy to compare this story to "Pride and Prejudice".)

Director Deniz Gamze Erguven has done a superb job with her directing debut as she conveys an atmosphere of young, happy spirits conflicting with depressing circumstances. She elicits fine performances especially from Gunes Sansoy as the youngest and most rebellious sister. But the greatest contribution to "Mustang" is its rich screenplay co-written by Erguven and Alice Winocour. It has many gems worth pondering. These include: a beginning and end that meet full circle in a surprising way; a different fate for each of the girls; a bizarre scene in which a bride's virginity is aggressively confirmed. (It might have been hilarious if it weren't so frighteningly close to the truth in many areas of the world - past and present); a scene in which someone "turns lemons into lemonade", using a very bad situation to their advantage.

There are also some interesting characterizations in the smaller roles. The grandmother is tyrannical overall (though not nearly as bad as the uncle) but she occasionally shows that she really cares for the girls' well-being. This is best shown in a funny scene involving a televised soccer match. Her sympathies cause an inner-conflict as she has to save face to hold good standing within an oppressive community.

Another interesting character is a laid-back, long-haired truck driver. His appearance makes him an outsider; yet, his treatment of women and girls makes him far more pious than certain hypocrites who claim piety.

With its broad variety of drama, sadness, humour, lightness, plus a very emotional ending, "Mustang" is truly one of the best films released in 2015.

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT: Screenplay by Deniz Gamze Erguven and Alice Winocour
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Spirited youngest sister resists patriarchal authority
maurice_yacowar10 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A street scene at the end of Mustang catches the central theme. As the two girls approach their former teacher's Istanbul flat they walk between two signs. On the left is some Turkish graffiti, on the right a store sign in English: "Objects of Desire." That catches the five sisters' dilemma: they are caught between Turkey's post-secular culture, which Erdogan has returned to harsh Islam, and the West's open sexuality that the earlier modernization had brought into Turkey. Both are abusive by defining women by gender alone.

The five orphaned sisters live with their indulgent grandmother and abusive uncle. When a neighbour complains about the girls' wild play with boys from their school the sisters are virtually imprisoned to protect their "honour." Their home is turned into "a marriage factory." Women come in to train them to be traditional wives. i.e., submissive homemakers.

The sisters' career follows a pattern of arranged marriage. The oldest gets to marry the boy she loves. The second submits to a loveless marriage, in which her hymen survives the defloration. The third kills herself rather than submitting. The fourth rebels on her wedding night and — led by the youngest, who has the unbroken spirit of the mustang — escapes to Istanbul and the modern woman's independence.

In their village the men have all the power. To confirm the patriarchy's total control the uncle has been sodomizing at least two of the nieces he ostensibly protects. Male violence spoils the football game too, so that the next game is played to an arena full of women. The women may agree to a marital match but only the men can command it. When the men shoot their pistols into the air at a wedding it's a macho strut. The unbroken hymen contradicts the pretence to male potency.

Against this institutionalized power Turkish woman director Deniz Erguven posits an implicit sisterhood. Even after the grandmother has raged at the sisters' behaviour she defends them against her son's anger. Still, she confiscates the computers and cell phones that presumably she has allowed them to live modern lives. The older women collaborate to prevent the men's discovering that the girls have escaped to attend the football game. In Istanbul the girl asking a local woman for directions calls her "Big sister," presumably a familiar colloquialism.

The exuberance and camaraderie of the five sisters is a model for a radical, interdependent sisterhood. This French-German-Turkish production addresses the religious suppression of women not just in Turkey but in the Middle East, indeed everywhere but Israel. Of course the problem rages well beyond that region.
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Wild horses
Karl Self14 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The movie is beautifully photographed and underlaid with an ambient soundtrack. Five sisters from, say, eleven to maybe nineteen, grow up with their grandmother and uncle in the Turkish countryside. As the sisters enter and go through puberty, their minders decide to curb their vivaciousness and get them married off as soon as possible. Only later do we find out that the uncle is raping at least some of the girls at night, and that the grandmother might see their marriages as the only way to protect them -- but actually, that's my hypothesis. The movie works from an outside view, the actual events are never fully explained and often remain vague. Or else I'm too daft to get it.

What I liked about this movie was the development. Erol, the uncle, is at first not a sinister figure, he likes to celebrate and seems to care for the girls. He's not even especially conservative as he drinks alcohol; and neither are the grandmother nor the aunts black-and-white stereotypes or uncaring, humourless bigots.

The way the girls were depicted reminded me not so much of The Virgin Suicides (although that's an apt comparison) but of David Hamilton. We see beautiful, svelte girls lingering about a lot. I kind of started to shift uneasily in my seat. They must have been living with their relatives for some time, but it's like they've arrived from Mars, they seem to be blissfully unaware of what's going on around them. They often don't seem to be behaving like I think real girls in this situation would.

One big problem with the plot is that it is quite linear. The girls are to be married off one after the other, and that's what happens over the course of the film.

The movie is supposed to be made by a Turkish woman from her personal experience, but it often seemed too fantastic to me. Like someone had made this film after reading a few books on the subject.

Overall not a bad movie, but not one I felt glad about having seen, either.
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Pedantic, politically correct view on arranged marriages. In their haste to drive the message home, the film makers shout down themselves
JvH485 July 2016
Saw this at the Leiden film festival (LIFF 2015. The beginning of the story is clear, abundantly clear even, and therefore a bit one-dimensional. We are invited to think bad about this tradition of arranged marriages, making it into a transaction between families even before the couple has met without having a chance to learn about each other. In other words, we are led to look down on this tradition as bad and inhumane, even to the extent that it should be abandoned at once in every country that calls itself civilized.

On the other hand, it is a tradition that survived many centuries and at many places on earth. It has (or: has had) its uses, contrary to what we think of it nowadays. Also remember this does not happen in a large metropole like Istanbul. In a small town and certainly a village, any family that distances itself from these traditions, is doomed to get shunned or worse, and thus forfeits all chances to bond with the better families in the neighborhood. In other words, it is in the girl's best interest to comply, after all. Ditto for the families on both sides, who come stronger out of the transaction than they were before.

Back to the story at hand. After having witnessed two arranged marriages, the three remaining sisters have a clear view what their respective futures look like. It is a pity that the story loses steam here, once the preachers that wrote the script for this movie decided they had succeeded in driving the message home. From that moment on, one can only wonder in which direction the story could be heading. When the third arranged marriage is about to take place, as per ancient tradition the doors are blocked just before the future family in law is about to be welcomed, with the difference that this time the blockade is for real. And as a logical aftermath, the story takes a definite turn and looses all hope for a happy ending.

I eagerly awaited some form of resolution, but alas it did not happen. The movie has an open end, but the only follow-up we can expect is that the deviant sisters are sent back home, and that the arranged marriage continues where it left off. I don't think the film makers devised another more productive ending (the one-dimensional outset makes me fear the worst). All in all, a mere waste of the talented actors who populate this movie. Luckily, the humor interwoven in the story compensates for the utter uselessness of the script.
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Five sisters struggle for self determination in modern Turkey.
t-dooley-69-3869162 August 2016
Five sisters have lost both parents and have been brought up in their uncle Erol's house ostensibly by their Grandmother. They live in a coastal idyll but where orthodox views on propriety hold sway. Women should know their place and chastity is a virtue to be honoured.

Then after school one day they play with some boys from their school at the beach and tongues start wagging. This is not idle gossip though as the neighbours impress on the family that the girls have gone too far and need to be controlled. This they take to with gusto turning the house into a marriage factory and curbing all the girls freedoms. The youngest is Lale and she is very free spirited and so she determines to be who she wants to be and not conform to the stereotype that is demanded of her – this is their story.

Now I thought I would not be that impressed about the story of five sisters who are not allowed to get their own way (yes that is a very narrow view of this film) but instead I found it captivating and engrossing. This is a story anyone can identify with who has ever been subjugated to the will and of others and who have had to fight to be just themselves. Beautifully acted and filmed and in Turkish with good subtitles – this is a film for those who like to think about what they see and who appreciate an original and rewarding movie.
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