Mustang | Movie Review

MUSTANG is a powerful and clever Oscar nominated Turkish movie taking the international festival scene by storm. A film that is both powerful, witty and clever and deals with a delicate subject matter from a different angle. An empowering movie that is at times hard to watch but at others hilarious. I missed this one at the Sydney Film Festival but Kernel Emma attended a screening for her last review before moving to Germany. MUSTANG is out now at art house cinemas across the country and is a MUST SEE. It is released by Madman Films, is rated M and runs for 97mins.

On a side note huge thanks for Kernel Emma’s contribution in Australia and we wish her all the best in her new journey. We look forward to having her review some German gems for us. Enjoy her review of MUSTANG……….all the best……….JK


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Five, incredibly beautiful, but most importantly resilient, sisters struggle with their family’s restrictions in Deniz Erguven’s MUSTANG. The girls just want to go to school, meet boys and enjoy the sun, but when caught in the ocean playing with boys, these privileges are taken away and their home transformed into a wife manufacturing prison. The girls aren’t willing to accept their fate and fight back in the best way they know how, with humour and wit. With sensational acting by the film’s largely nonprofessional actresses and an empowering take on a difficult subject matter, it comes as no surprise that MUSTANG is picking up awards worldwide.

Restricted by the ever heightening walls of their family home, the five orphan sisters are determined to have their independence. When the girls are dressed in traditional, more conservative dresses, they rip them up the sides. When taught how to cook and do domestic tasks the girls play and laugh. As uncle Erol continues to restrict their freedom, the sisters work harder to rebel. While the premise of MUSTANG has been compared to THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, the storytelling feels significantly more real and the women more empowered.

In one of the film’s most powerful scenes, the sister’s escape to a local football match reserved only for female spectators. Lale, the youngest of the group and a massive football fan hails a local driver called Yasin to escort them to the bus. Once at the game, the sisters chant and celebrate with other local girls. Young Lale admits ‘they’ll skin us alive’ at the thought of her family finding out, but concludes that ‘at least something will happen.’ Chaos ensues when the aunts back at home turn on their television and see the young sisters celebrating in the stadium crowd. As one aunt faints, the remaining ladies run outside to smash the power box, the thought of the men seeing the sisters undeniably far worse than cutting out power to their entire village.


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While there are moments of humour in the girl’s rebellion, the significance of tradition soon becomes apparent as the girls Aunt begins to marry them off. Before the process begins, the girls are piled into a hospital room to have their hymens examined, the irony that this is encouraged by their sexually abusive uncle is sickening.

The increasingly rebellious Lale calls the house a wife factory, as one by one the sisters are forced into arranged marriage. Sonay and Selma have a joint wedding and while Sonay has genuine feelings for her husband, Selma does not. Following the wedding, Selma has sex with her husband and as tradition goes the bed sheets are checked for blood. When there is no blood, Selma is quickly escorted to the hospital where, still fully clothed in her wedding dress, she is internally examined. We look down at Selma’s blank expression, as if in the room, feeling hopeless and disturbed.


There is no doubt the film is politicly charged, the young women are subject to the control of their families, and their sexuality is policed and controlled. What is most shocking is the age at which this policing of sexuality starts and the insistence on removing all power from the young women. Despite these restrictions, there is a continued sense of hope echoed throughout the film, whether that is from the incredibly natural acting from the girls or the everyday moments of rebellion.

The girls are stunningly beautiful and feminine, yet they are intelligent and independent. It is simply not an option for these girls to accept the status quo and they constantly remind us that they are entitled to freedom, particularly when it comes to their own bodies. MUSTANG is shot beautifully, the observational shooting style and use of natural sunlight reminds us that there is a world outside of the house. The actresses, most of whom are not professional actors give the film and its subject matter authenticity. Similarly the day to day events in the film feel very real, the first scene inspired by Erguevn’s own childhood.


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Academy Award Nomination Best Foreign Language Film
Official Selection Cannes Film Festival
Golden Globe Nomination Best Foreign Language Film
Winner Label Europa Cinemas Award Cannes Film Festival
Winner Audience Award Chicago International Film Festival
Official Selection Melbourne International Film Festival
Official Selection Sydney International Film Festival
Official Selection New Zealand International Film Festival
Nominated 9 Cesar Awards inc. Best Film, Best Director
Winner European Discovery of the Year European Film Awards
Winner Best Film Lumiere Awards
Winner Freedom of Expression Award National Board of Review


While there is no doubt MUSTANG is a film made to empower women, there are male characters in the film whom are also likeable. Truck driver Yasin who picks up the girls as they walk to the football match becomes an unlikely friend for young Lale. When, in one of the film’s final scenes, Lale and Selma escape from the house in search of freedom it is Yasin who rescues them. While his role in the film is minor, he provides a refreshing contrast from the girl’s sexually abusive antagonist uncle Erol.

MUSTANG is one of the best foreign films to emerge this year and while there are some shocking moments it is definitely well worth a watch.


4 Pops



Kernel Emma is documentary mad and also loves foreign and arthouse films ! She is Salty’s honorary NooooZealanderrrr writer, but she hides out in Sydney saying sex, fush and chups to everyone’s amusement.

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.