Why did France submit an entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar that was filmed in Turkey and performed entirely in Turkish? Writer-director Deniz Gamze Ergüven was born in Ankara but emigrated to France as a girl. Her debut film Mustang is a French co-production, and it shows astonishing assurance on the part of its first-time filmmaker. This movie will have some work to do to defeat Son of Saul for the Oscar, but it’s an amazing piece of work that you can see this weekend at the Modern.
Based on Ergüven’s own early life, the story is about five orphaned sisters in a Turkish village whose immodesty — they don’t cover their heads and play with boys on the beach — makes them the target of a puritanical backlash from the neighbors, while their uncle tries frantically to marry them off to traditional husbands before they can cause more trouble. The movie’s diaphanous style owes a heavy debt to Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, but it’s arguably the stronger film when it comes to railing against its backwater setting’s stifling mores. (Those mores are Islamic, but they could just as easily be another religion’s.) As the youngest and most rebellious sister, Günes Sensoy is a loud, destabilizing presence who makes for a heroine worth rallying around.
Mustang screens Fri-Sun at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St, FW. Tickets are $7-9. Call 817-738-9215.