Teenage Turkish girls take on the system


A look at Mustang (PG)…

FIVE Turkish sisters, ranging in age from 12 to 18, mark the end of their school year with a light-hearted frolic in the shallows of the Black Sea.

Only trouble is they play splashing and tumbling games with male students from their college.

This outrage is reported back to their guardian grandmother by a nosey neighbour, causing strict regulations to come into force in their middle-class village home.

“You were riding on boys’ shoulders with your private parts rubbing against their heads,” the furious grandma (Nihal Koldas) yells before beating them.

So all forms of likely corruption for the orphaned sisters – cell phones, computers, a landline telephone, even photos – are removed and locked away as the guardian’s attention resolutely swivels to finding likely suitors for the oldest trio.

Grandma sews them frumpy and shapeless frocks to wear and gets her village friends over to teach the girls how to make and serve tea, stuff pillows and cushions and make dolmas.

But this isn’t much fun for the bored girls. So what else to do on the long summer school holidays becomes the abiding problem for the high-spirited girls.

Even though she’s the youngest Lale (Gunes Sensoy) is perhaps the most free-spirited and certainly the most innovative of the girls.

She manages to sneak out one day and get local vegetable grower and truck driver Yasin (Burat Yigit) to give her rudimentary driving lessons. She demonstrates her determination not to cave in to grandma and the male head of the house, her uncle.

Lale loves football and is a fervent supporter of Black Sea power team Trabzonspor. (I’ve been a long-time follower of Istanbul powerhouse club Galatasaray so I have a tenuous grasp of Turkish Premier League club soccer).

When she hears all the village girls are going on a bus to a Trabzonspor home match – men have been banned for this fixture because of flare lighting and general rowdy behaviour – Lale tells her sisters they’re all going.

But with all the clambering through and over obstacles, through gaps in barred windows and the like they miss the bus. Fortunately Yazin turns up in his truck and he overtakes the bus and offloads the five girls.

They’re delighted to have an outing from the stifling home atmosphere. But Grandma catches a glimpse on television of a crowd scene showing the girls at the match and knows the fierce repercussions they face when they finally get home.

The sequence where she stones the main electricity transmitter thereby cutting power to the village is priceless. All the men sitting at their village homes are faced with a power blackout and thus no TV coverage of the Trabzonspor game.

Nonetheless, grandma continues to oversee match-making for the two oldest sisters before Lale and the second youngest sibling decide to make a stand.

How these two hatch – and then put into action – their plan to escape stifling village life is the highpoint of the movie.

Mustang was Turkey’s entrant in this year’s Best Foreign Language film at the 88th Academy Awards.


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