‘Mustang’ Points Camera on 5 Sisters in Rural Turkey

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"Mustang" focuses on five orphaned sisters in Turkey.

Credit: Courtesy of Cohen Media Group

(WOMENSENEWS)– "Mustang," opening today, is a femme-helmed coming-of-age drama set in present day rural Turkey. It is the story of five orphaned sisters, adolescents all, who are being raised by their grandmother and uncle. Because of their fun-loving nature, the girls are deemed by their guardians to be disgracefully flirtatious and frisky, and they are locked up (literally) at home while marriages are arranged for them. Each girl’s situation is different, but repression is the theme and all are forced to cope with the untenable. The luckiest of the sisters is allowed to marry her boyfriend, but another is being forced to marry someone she’s barely seen. One of the girls is being molested by the uncle who is "protecting"’ her and the family’s reputation. Director Deniz Gamze Erguven, who also co-scripted with Alice Vinocour, presents a gripping, beautifully realized and socially relevant women’s story that simply must be seen.

"Carol," a love story between two women, may be the vehicle that drives stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara to the Oscars. The actresses play opposite each other in a story set in 1950s America, when their undeniable attraction and love for each other had to be hidden – even from themselves – so they could survive in an unsympathetic, even hostile, social environment. There is a lot at stake, especially for Carol (Blanchett), the older and more experienced of the women, who is in the middle of a divorce and could, if discovered, be denied custody of her young daughter. Directed by Todd Haynes and scripted by Phyllis Nagy from Patricia Highsmith’s novel, the richly nuanced story is elegantly and seductively delivered. And Blanchett and Mara’s performances are simply stunning.

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2" is the long-awaited final episode of the franchise that put cinema’s iconic heroine (Katniss Everdeen) and Hollywood’s most bankable star (Jennifer Lawrence) into our culture’s psyche. The futuristic dystopian survival saga comes to an end on a very human – and inconclusive — note. No spoilers here. Suffice it to say that director Francis Lawrence has done a great job of harvesting the final chapters in Suzanne Collins’ source novels for profoundly human concerns. The film is fertile with unanswered questions and self-searching instead of grandiose resolution and assurances about the future. For series fans, the finale offers sufficient story and character development to satisfy. And this film will surely make fans of first-time audiences for "The Hunger Games" as well.

Three femme-helmed documentaries open this week, and all are well made, choc-a-bloc with information and very worth watching.

"Very Semi-Serious" is the one to watch for some comic relief and insight into cartoon selection at the New Yorker, the weekly magazine that for the past 90 years has provided a prominent forum for cartoonists. Filmmaker Leah Wolchok follows the magazine’s cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff, as he sifts through an influx of submissions, commenting energetically about some of the individual ideas and drawings that find their way to his desk, and expounding on the magazine’s open-pen philosophy. What fun!

On a more serious note, "Censored Voices" is a "found audio" documentary in which Israeli filmmaker Mor Loushy gives play to a cache of previously unheard audio tapes of impromptu interviews conducted in 1967 with Israeli soldiers who’d just returned from fighting in the Arab-Israeli Six Day War. The war was generally deemed to be a total victory for Israel, but the soldiers, whose remarks were captured on audio tape by well known writers Amos Ox and Avraham Shapiro, revealed profoundly personal and deeply disturbing reactions to what they’d seen and done in combat. The comments were heavily redacted by Israeli authorities. Heard here for the first time in their entirety, the tapes are used as voiceover for archival footage of the Six Day War and its aftermath, thus creating a compelling and relentless reminder of the horrors of war.

"Democrats," which opened on Nov. 18, covers the ongoing struggle for a democratic government in Zimbabwe. Filmmaker Camilla Neilsson braved the dangers and chaos that occurred following the disputed 2008 election to uncover and chronicle abuses by strongman President Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe Africa National Union-Patriotic Front. This is an important and informative human rights investigative documentary.

Stay tuned for more November openers next week.

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