Sorry, Taylor Swift, but #girlsquad of the year goes to the five sisters in Turkish director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s brilliant debut drama. ‘Mustang’ feels unlike anything you’ve seen before; it’s like a cross between a prison-break movie, an arthouse drama and a fairy tale. It’s raw, funny and incredibly moving.
The squad in question are sisters: aged roughly between 12 and 17, they’re orphans who live with their grandmother and bullying uncle in a sleepy village in Turkey. At the film’s start, they’re caught mucking around with a bunch of boys, play-fighting in the sea, sitting on each other’s shoulders. When their grandmother finds out, she screams that they are whores: ‘You’re disgusting. Everybody is talking about your obscene behaviour. Rubbing your privates against the boys’ necks.’ The three eldest girls are taken to hospital for ‘virginity-testing’ – because a middle-aged male doctor inserting a speculum into a 14-year-old girl’s vagina is okay.
The girls are removed from school, their phones are confiscated and they’re forced to wear ‘shit-coloured’ sack dresses. The house is on lockdown, turned into a ‘wife factory’ as grandma finds each of them a husband. Hilarious and smart, the girls are the opposite of the obedient little mice that the world wants them to be. Telling the story is feisty little Lale (Günes Sensoy), the youngest, who orchestrates the escape plan. When it comes, the jailbreak is as gripping as Bourne. What stays with you, though, is the film’s powerful feminist statement about how society perceives women and girls’ sexuality; as if somehow a 12-year-old girl showing her legs is as dangerous as waving around a loaded gun.