MUSTANG IS THE ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE FOR FRANCE


27/11/2016





Every country which does not have English as its official language is eligible to send one film shot during the past year to that year’s Academy Awards. One of these films is awarded the Best Foreign Language Film title. Among this year’s final five nominees is Mustang, the French runner. What makes Mustang the subject of this article is that it was shot in Turkey with an entirely Turkish cast by a Turkish-French director.The film follows the five sisters Sonay, Semra, Ece, Nur and Lale as their lives change in a short time during a stay with their paternal grandmother in İnegöl. Having lost their parents at a young age, the five sisters are oppressed and forced to marry by their grandmother, who loves her granddaughters but never considers resisting societal pressure, their very forceful uncles and the very conservative locals. However, it is not so easy for the freedom loving sisters who are used to doing what they like and are fired by youth to accept this situation.
It must be said that the sparse cast includes very successful actresses. Despite their youth, actresses Güneş Şensoy, Doğa Doğuşlu ,Elit İşcan, Tuğba Sunguroğlu and İlayda Akdoğan carry their roles. They never betray credibility while portraying a life that starts of mirthfully and evolves into tragedy. One can easily praise director Deniz Gamze Ergüven for her casting. In terms of technique, it is easily admitted that the film is at least above standards. However, this is where the unity of opinion breaks apart. Critics have been divided into two opposite poles. While the film was much praised in France and the rest of Europe, very few viewers in Turkey have had favourable impressions. There must be a reason for such divergence of opinion. Could it be that a film produced in Turkey is a candidate for France for the most prestigious cinema award in the world? Had that been the case, the same should have happened with Against the Wall (2004). While that film received all of its awards as a German film, it had been very well liked in Turkey. This despite the fact that most of it was set in Hamburg. It must be that something in Mustang does not convince the viewers in Turkey.
It is not difficult to see what that may be when watching the film: despite the success of the actresses portrayal the five sisters do not belong the to the environment they inhabit as characters. The story of five independent, young and pretty sisters coming into conflict with a conservative society might be more easy to relate to for European viewers. However, those who have a closer knowledge of said society cannot relate to the characters as fully independent of their environment. So the question becomes how it is possible that five women raised by that particular society have become so unique. Such a question reduces the credibility of the film. It begins to appear as though the sisters were on holiday when they were forced into marriage. Perhaps the film got so much attention in Europe and the USA because it depicts five women leading a fully Western lifestyle in a more Oriental setting. The interest Western societies take in the East is well known. One may also say that in terms of its message and the subject it chooses, the film fits the mould which the West deems fit for Turkey. Each viewer is entitled to their own take, of course.
I would like to wish Mustang, which is worth seeing for its social commentary and striking storyline, success at the Oscars.
By Petek Şah

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