TIFF 2015 Review: Mustang

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies, TIFF 2015 by - September 08, 2015
TIFF 2015 Review: Mustang

Special Presentations

Cinema has served many functions throughout history. In Hollywood, it has most prominently provided a venue for escapism. For other cultures around the world, it is a force for dissent, a megaphone projecting the reality of their people. It allows us to tell stories that otherwise may go unheard, bringing casualties of cultural oppression to the foreground of our collective consciousness. Mustang, the debut feature from Deniz Gamze Ergüven, is a mesmerizing example of film’s ability to transcend pure entertainment. A beautiful cinematic achievement, it highlights female oppression and the demonization of female sexuality with poetic fluidity. Deeply reminiscent of Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, it tells the story of five orphaned sisters who, after a playful afternoon at the beach, find themselves literally and figuratively imprisoned by their uncle and grandmother.

The material at times betrays Ergüven’s inexperience, with certain elements of sexual abuse and character development feeling heavy handed, or indelicately added to the story. Despite its few, sporadic shortcomings, the script by Ergüven and French screenwriter Alice Winocour bluntly addresses the very serious issues facing women in Turkey, as well as other conservative areas of Asia.

Most outstanding in Ergüven’s film are her leading ladies. Each young girl embodies an ethereal force of nature, beautifully and elegantly revolting against the oppression of their ignorant family and the culture around them. Mostly inexperienced actresses, (the sole exception being Elit Iscan as Ece) these women bring a nuanced ache to the screen with the wisdom and skill of a seasoned professional. As the sum of its parts, Mustang is one of the most significant films at TIFF this year, offering a poignant, penetrating dialogue on what it means to be a woman where women have no autonomy.

Mustang will have its North American premiere on Thursday, September 10th at 9:00pm at the Ryerson Theatre, with a follow-up screening on Friday, September 11th at 2:45pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

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