Turkish movie Mustang up for Best Foreign Film award at tonight’s Oscars

A film by Turkish director Deniz Gamze Ergüven will be competing for a coveted Oscar at the 88th Academy Awards being held tonight at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Mustang is a coming-of-age film about five sisters living in a village in Kastamonu, in Turkey’s northern Black Sea region. The film was entered by France and is up against four other foreign language films: A War (Denmark), Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia), Son of Saul (Hungary), and Theeb (Jordan).

Mustang premiered at Cannes last year, winning the Europa Cinemas Label Award and has gone on to win or be nominated for many other awards at film festivals around the world. It has also been well-received by the critics. Among them was Jay Weissberg (Variety) who wrote,

“Few can argue with the director’s talent or that of her exceptionally fine, largely unknown cast of young women.”

On Friday night, Mustang took four prizes at the 41st annual César awards – France’s equivalent of the Oscars – including Best Original Screenplay, Best First Feature Film and Best Original Music.

Deniz Gamze Ergüven at the 6th Odessa International Film Festival 2015 by Andriy Makukha (Amakuha) / Wikipedia
Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Odessa Int’al Film Festival 2015, by Andriy Makukha (Amakuha) / Wikipedia

The Turkish-language film, which Deniz Gamze Ergüven co-wrote and directed, is based on her personal experience. Five orphaned sisters find their lives transformed one summer. Their innocent play with boys sets tongues wagging in the village and the ensuing scandal prompts their conservative guardians to turn their home into a prison. School is replaced by classes on maintaining a home, as the search for suitable husbands and arranged marriages begin. The sisters, driven by the same desire for freedom, fight back against the restrictions imposed on them.

The film stars Ayberk Pekcan (Erol), Günes Sensoy (Lale) and Tuğba Sunguroğlu (Selma). Its sensitive observations about the suppression of girlhood liberties have drawn both praise and criticism in Turkey. However, it failed to pull in Turkish audiences – a mere 17,500 have seen the film following its release in Turkey in November.

About Deniz Gamze Ergüven

Ergüven was born in Ankara in 1978. Her family emigrated to France in the 1980s, where she grew up. She graduated from La Fémis (France’s leading film school) in 2008. Mustang is her first feature film. During the Cannes Film Festival she joked about the likely response the film would generate:

“Tuesday we’ll show the movie, Wednesday we’ll talk to the press, Thursday we’ll be old news. But that Thursday never came! We’re still Wednesday and it’s just getting more intense.”

The film is set for UK release on 13th May 2016.