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The Rife Team

Pick of the Week: ‘Mustang’


Rife Guide has picked the best thing happening this week in Bristol- sweet and sad ‘Mustang’.

School’s out for summer.

The bell rings. School’s out for summer. Tearful farewells to well-loved teachers disappear into the distance as the stars of Mustang- a five-strong group of sisters- celebrate their freedom with a swift trip to the beach on their return home. Basking in the sunshine, the girls boisterously play games in the sea, jostling each other and bickering as they fall into the water. A scandalised and conservative neighbour reports them to their grandmother for pleasuring themselves on the shoulders of boys, and the consequences take immediate effect.


‘It’s like everything changed in the blink of an eye. One moment we were fine, then everything turned to sh*t’ – Lale

Oscar-nominated knockout ‘Mustang’ does just that- completely takes you aback right from the start. A powerful portrayal of sisterhood in the whirls of puberty and adolescence, the film naturally draws understandable comparisons to Sophia Coppola’s dreamy ‘Virgin Suicides’, but ‘Mustang’ carries a much weightier punch. Set a ‘thousand kilometres from Istanbul’ in a remote Black Sea village, the film looks at what it’s like to be a girl in a world where femininity is reduced to sexuality and freedom is dictated by men.

…in a world where femininity is reduced to sexuality and freedom is dictated by men.

The grandmother and uncle of the orphaned sisters believe the girl’s obscene behaviour brings shame on the family and an attempt at house arrest begins. Uncle Erol becomes obsessed with the state of his eldest nieces hymens, immediately subjecting them to virginity tests while the grandmother removes anything considered ‘perverting’, unplugging the phone lines, locking away the computer and disposing of tight clothes and makeup. But the real complication for the traditional elders is the girl’s unassailable and independent spirits in the face of oppression. The house becomes a caged in ‘wife factory’, school lessons are replaced with cooking and sewing, and slowly at first, prospective husbands are invited round for tea.

Headstrong and voracious, youngest sister Lale drives and narrates the film. Stubbornly resisting the efforts made to force her fate to be the same as her siblings, she offers hope of future change within a conservative society. With Lale’s fun and fearsome presence, the film balances a heavy subject matter with warmth and humour. Some of the most uplifting moments are natural scenes of sister’s playing- dressed in colourful swimsuits bouncing around their bedroom, diving into a sea of blankets and laying down, soaking in streams of sunshine. Surprisingly the first feature film for all five actresses, the girls tender and generous love for one another it what makes the film so compelling, and often, heart-breaking.

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The film does not point fingers of blame at religion or culture but instead encourages viewers to empathise, to understand and to fight with the sisters against a suffocating, patriarchal society. Shot in natural light and playing with dreamy colours, visually the film is stunning. Sparking with life and energy, Mustang carries enough muster to aid you through the more tragic scenes and bring you back out the other side. A powerful portrayal of sisterhood and strength, the Oscar-nominated Mustang is an astounding first feature from director Deniz Gamze Ergüven. Intoxicating, stirring, and touching – Mustang is a must-see.

Mustang will be screening at Watershed for  the next two weeks. Ticket prices are always £4.50 for anyone aged 24 and under, any day, any time.

The 6.15pm screening of Mustang on Wednesday 18th will be followed by a panel discussion hosted by Shamil Ahmed, journalist from Rife Magazine; Iframa from gal-dem magazine; Adibah Iqbal, social issues editor for Nocturnal magazine; and Noha Abou El Magd, BME Officer at Bristol Students’ Union. 

After the event, from 20:30, you will have the chance to join the panelists and other members of the audience for Conversations About Cinema, an informal discussion about the themes of the film in the Café/Bar of Watershed.

What did you think of Mustang? Share your thoughts and opinions on FacebookInstagram or Twitter.

More events this week:

Explore Mayfest- eleven days contemporary theatre and dance

Interested in theatre but never had a go? Get involved with a Youth Theatre Taster Session