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Mustang: The Turkish Virgin Suicides



Set in a remote Turkish village, Mustang depicts the period of about three months of five orphaned sisters' lives where they were suppressed and forcibly raised day by day. Dated 2015, Mustang was directed by French-Turkish director Deniz Gamze Ergüven. The film was nominated for the “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 88th Academy Awards after being selected as France’s submission.




The film starts with the siblings being scolded by their grandmother and uncle after being seen by “so-and-so” while playing on the beach with their friends after school on a frustratingly hot day. At this point in the movie, we see that the girls are orphans and stay with their oppressive uncle and grandmother. After the incident of being seen with boys, the girls are practically housebound and are forced to marry at that very young age, starting with the oldest, Sonay. She gets married to the boy she “loves” and has consented to. While Selma, the oldest one after Sonay, gets married to a man she has no interest in or had never seen in her life before. When it is the turn of the oldest of the remaining three sisters, Ece, she commits suicide. Yet, life continues at home as if nothing had happened and, of course, the marriages also do continue. On Nur’s, the fourth sister’s wedding night, Lale, the youngest one among the sisters, shuts them both in the house and leaves the whole crowd outside. Lale is a great observer, who has already made escape plans where she aims to go to Istanbul, to her teacher who had recently left school. After nine tense minutes, the girls manage to escape.




When we dig into the reviews, the film has received positive feedbacks from the western audience. As a matter of fact, it is claimed that it is a better version of Sofia Coppola’s infamous “The Virgin Suicides”. But we, the local audience, did not approach the film that warmly. The thing that mainly bothers me is that I, as a Turkish young woman who has more or less knowledge about the hardships my peers suffer in real life, was not included in the target audience of a film alleged to spread awareness about the difficulties some young women go through. The dialogue is quite distant and even laughable at some points. The characters, who speak with a perfect Istanbul accent in an aristocratic way, are not realistic at all. Everything is exaggerated and feels incredibly artificial.


Considering that it is a work of fiction, it is not fair to attribute the events to the culture of the region. It is utterly ignorant for someone who has lived in France all her life to come and try to create a “realistic” work about the problems of five sisters living in a rural area of Turkey.


It cannot be denied that there are many problems in this patriarchal society where women are seen as the stereotypical inferior gender; however, we should not hold a culture, which has been misinterpreted, accountable under the act of "raising concern" about these issues. Either the people involved in the making of the film had little to no accumulation of knowledge about the region — since most of them are strangers — or they actually did have the necessary information, but they still could not prevent their production from being under the influence of ‘French eyes’. But either way, unfortunately, this misconception was benefited from. Turkey still deserves sincere rational criticisms about women’s rights.

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