“Mustang” (Netflix)

Today’s guest contributor is longtime friend Ilene Gordon. Turkey holds a special appeal for her having visited many times during her son’s seven year residency there.

A pile of giggling teenage girls squirm like puppies, ten arms and legs entwined. In Turkish filmmaker Deniz Gamze Erguven’s “Mustang” five sisters explode in joy at the end of a school year. They run into the sea to chicken fight on the backs of boys, steal apples from an orchard, and run back to their village soaking wet.  What could go wrong?

Gamze Erguven, the daughter of a Turkish diplomat, grew up primarily in Paris.  This 2015 semi-autobiographical film, her first, is set in a conservative village in eastern Turkey, where walls close in around the girls as they grow into women.  Although there was an outcry against Mustang in Turkey—critics described it as orientalist and anti-Islam though there is no religious content—”Mustang” was acclaimed internationally, particularly in France.   The themes of joyful sisterhood, diminishing options for girls in the face of increasing sexuality, and the complex role of older women in limiting options for girls, are universal themes and reach far beyond Turkey.  

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