Mustang (film)

Mustang is a 2015 Turkish-language drama film co-written and directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven in her feature debut. Set in a remote Turkish village, Mustang depicts the lives of five young orphaned sisters and the challenges they face growing up as girls in a conservative society. The event that triggers the family backlash against the five sisters at the beginning of the film is based on Ergüven's personal life. Mustang is an international co-production of France, Germany and Turkey.

Mustang poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDeniz Gamze Ergüven
Written by
Produced byCharles Gillibert
  • David Chizallet
  • Ersin Gok
Edited byMathilde Van de Moortel
Music byWarren Ellis
Distributed byAd Vitam[1]
Release dates
  • 19 May 2015 (2015-05-19) (Cannes)[2]
  • 17 June 2015 (2015-06-17) (France)
Running time
97 minutes[3]
  • France
  • Germany
  • Turkey[4]
Budget$1.3 million[5]
Box office$4.9 million[6]

It premiered at the Directors' Fortnight section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Europa Cinemas Label Award. Mustang was selected as France's submission and was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. It received nine nominations at the 41st César Awards and won four, for First Feature Film, Original Screenplay, Editing and Original Music. Mustang has received widespread critical praise.


The film starts with Lale, the youngest of the five sisters and the protagonist, bidding an emotional farewell at school to her female teacher, who is moving to Istanbul. The sisters decide to walk home instead of taking a van, to enjoy the sunny day. Along the way, they play in the water at the beach with their classmates. For one game, they sit on boys' shoulders and try to knock each other off. When they reach home, their grandmother scolds and hits them for their having this kind of bodily contact with boys and thus "pleasuring themselves" with them. Their uncle Erol is equally furious. From then on, the girls are forbidden from leaving the house, even for school.

The sisters feel stifled in their home as their grandmother tries to make them suitable for marriage. When in public they must now dress in drab, conservative clothing. Instead of attending school, they must stay home, where they are taught how to cook, clean and sew by their female relatives. Even so, the oldest sister, Sonay, sneaks out occasionally to meet her lover, and Lale looks for various ways to escape.

Lale, who loves football, is forbidden from attending Trabzonspor matches. She resolves to go to a match from which men have been banned due to hooliganism. A friend tells her that the girls in the village are going together on a bus. The sisters, who are happy for an opportunity to leave the house, sneak out of the house with Lale. When they miss the bus, they hitch a ride with a passing truck driver, Yasin, who helps them catch up to it. They’re ecstatic in the exuberant atmosphere of the all-female crowd cheering for their team. Back home, their aunt catches a glimpse of them at the match on TV, just as their uncle and other village men are about to tune in. To prevent the men from finding out, she cuts the house's, and then the whole village's, electricity.

When the girls return, their grandmother decides to start marrying the sisters off. They’re taken to town, ostensibly "to get lemonade", which is actually an opportunity to show them off to potential suitors. Soon enough, a suitor and his family arrive to meet them. Sonay vows to only marry her lover and refuses to meet the prospective suitor and his family. Selma is sent instead and becomes engaged. Sonay gets engaged a short while later to her lover. At the two sisters' joint wedding, Sonay is clearly happy while Selma is not. On the night of her wedding, Selma's in-laws come to view the bed sheets in a traditional ritual to establish that Selma was a virgin before her wedding night. Because there is no blood on the sheet, her in-laws take her to a physician to have her virginity tested.

Next in line for marriage is Ece. It’s revealed that her uncle is sexually abusing her at night. In Lale’s words, she starts acting “dangerously.” When the three remaining girls stop with their uncle near a bank, Ece allows a boy to have sexual contact with her in their car. She makes jokes at the lunch table, inciting loud laughs from her sisters, and is told to go to her room, where she shoots herself and dies. The surviving sisters and their family attend the funeral.

Now it is just the two youngest sisters, Nur and Lale, at home. Lale continues sneaking out. On one impulsive attempt to walk to Istanbul alone she is encountered by Yasin, the truck driver, who is kind to her. At Lale's request, he later teaches her how to drive. When she is caught on the way back into her house, the house is again reinforced to try to make it impossible for them to leave.

It becomes evident that the uncle starts abusing Nur and that their grandmother knows about it. She says that now it is time for her to be married off. Though she is young, she is found a suitor and engaged to be married. On the night of Nur's wedding, Lale convinces her to resist, and the girls bar themselves inside the house while the whole wedding party is outside, much to the embarrassment of their family. As the wedding party disperses, their uncle violently tries to get inside. Lale finds the phone hidden in a cupboard and plugs it in to call Yasin for help. The girls gather up money and a few supplies, grab the uncle's car keys, and sneak out of the house. They manage to escape in the car, crashing it close to their house. They hide and wait for Yasin, who picks them up and takes them to the local bus station. The girls take the bus to Istanbul, where they find their former teacher, who greets them warmly.



After graduating from La Fémis film school in 2006, Ergüven was initially developing a film about the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which would later be made and released as Kings in 2017.[8][9] In 2011, she was invited to the Cinéfondation workshop at the Cannes Film Festival to pitch the project, where she met Alice Winocour, who was pitching her film, Augustine.[10] She subsequently put Kings on hold and wrote Mustang with Winocour over the summer of 2012.[11] The event of girls being reprimanded for sitting on boys' shoulders depicted earlier in the film was based on Ergüven's own experience as a teenager.[12][10]

Of the five girls who played the main sisters, only Elit İşcan had acted before. Ergüven wrote her role, Ece, with İşcan in mind.[13] Tuğba Sunguroğlu was discovered and recruited by Ergüven at the baggage claim of Charles de Gaulle Airport after a flight from Istanbul to Paris.[11] The other three, Güneş Şensoy, Doğa Doğuşlu, and İlayda Akdoğan, were cast through audition among hundreds.[10]

The film was a co-production between France, Germany, and Turkey, with a budget of €1.4 million.[14][11][12] Weeks before shooting was scheduled to begin, a leading French producer pulled out of the film.[11] She cited a shortage of funds as the main reason, and, among other things, Ergüven's pregnancy, which Ergüven had discovered a week before.[12] A few days later, Charles Gillibert came on board as producer.[12]

The film was shot in and around the Black Sea coastal town of İnebolu, 600 kilometers from Istanbul.[10] The football scene was acted at an actual match where no adult men were allowed to attend. The filmmakers were denied filming the match at the last minute, so they used images from the station which televised the match, which was informed of the situation.[15]

The film's score was Warren Ellis's first to compose by himself. Ergüven approached Ellis, who initially turned it down due to a busy schedule, but was eventually persuaded.[16]


Mustang premiered at the Directors' Fortnight section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival on 19 May 2015.[2] In France, it was released on 17 June 2015 and had 505,223 admissions. In Turkey, it was released on 23 October 2015 and had 25,419 admissions.[4] It was selected to be screened in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.[17]


Mustang has received widespread acclaim from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 97%, based on 149 reviews, with an average rating of 8.14/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Mustang delivers a bracing — and thoroughly timely — message whose power is further bolstered by the efforts of a stellar ensemble cast."[18] Metacritic reports a score of 83 out of 100, based on 29 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[19]

For Variety, Jay Weissberg compared it to The Virgin Suicides and criticized the narration as redundant while praising the direction of performances.[20] IndieWire critic Jessica Kiang gave it a B, as "less a cultural critique, and more a bittersweet, often angry lament for childhoods ended before childhood has actually ended".[21] Screen Daily's Tim Grierson found difficulty distinguishing between the sister characters but enjoyed their unity.[22] Richard Brody wrote that Ergüven "gets appealing and fiercely committed performances from the five young actresses at the story’s center, but above all she effectively stokes righteous anger at a situation that admits no clear remedy other than mere escape".[23] In The Daily Telegraph, Tristram Fane Saunders awarded it four stars and identified its voice as "fierce, confident and rebellious".[24] The Guardian's Wendy Ide gave it five stars, citing it for "rebellious spirit".[25] Ty Burr called it "an excellent first film" that condemns the treatment of women in Anatolia villages.[26]

In Turkey, the reaction to Mustang was polarized. While critics such as Atilla Dorsay praised the film, it was criticized as depicting Turkish culture in inaccurate or orientalist ways.[27][11][28]


Award / Film Festival Category Recipients and nominees Result
Academy Awards[29] Best Foreign Language Film France Nominated
Austin Film Critics Association[30] Best Foreign-Language Film Nominated
Best First Film Nominated
Australian Film Critics Association[31] Best International Film (Foreign Language) Mustang Won
Belgian Film Critics Association[32] Grand Prix Nominated
Cannes Film Festival[33] Europa Cinemas Label Won
Caméra d'Or Deniz Gamze Ergüven Nominated
Queer Palm Nominated
César Awards[34] Best Film Nominated
Best Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Deniz Gamze Ergüven and Alice Winocour Won
Best First Feature Film Won
Best Cinematography David Chizallet and Ersin Gök Nominated
Best Editing Mathilde Van de Moortel Won
Best Sound Ibrahim Gök, Damien Guillaume and Olivier Goinard Nominated
Best Original Music Warren Ellis Won
Best Costume Design Selin Sözen Nominated
Critics' Choice Awards[35] Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association[36] Best Foreign Language Film 4th place
European Film Awards[37] European Film Nominated
European Discovery of the Year Won
Florida Film Critics Circle[38] Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Glasgow Film Festival[39] Glasgow Film Festival Audience Award Won
Golden Globe Awards[40] Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Goya Awards[41][42] Best European Film Won
Independent Spirit Awards[43] Best International Film Nominated
Louis Delluc Prize[44] Best First Film Nominated
Lumières Awards[45] Best Film Won
Most Promising Actress Güneş Nezihe Şensoy, Doğa Zeynep Doğuşlu, Elit Işcan,
Tuğba Sunguroğlu and Ilayda Akdoğan
Best First Film Won
Best Screenplay Deniz Gamze Ergüven and Alice Winocour Nominated
Best Cinematography David Chizallet Won
Best Music Warren Ellis Nominated
LUX Prize[46] Won
National Board of Review[47] NBR Freedom Of Expression Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association[48] Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
46th International Film Festival of India[49] Silver Peacock Award for Best Actress Gunes Sensoy, Doga Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan and Ilayda Akdogan Won
Online Film Critics Society[50] Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Polish Filmmakers' Association[51] Best Feature Movie Won
Satellite Awards[52] Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Stockholm International Film Festival[53] Best Script Deniz Gamze Ergüven and Alice Winocour Won
Trophées du Film français[54] Duo révélation cinéma Deniz Gamze Ergüven and Charles Gillibert Won
Odessa International Film Festival[55] Grand Prix - Golden Duke Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association[48] Best Foreign Language Film Nominated

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (22 May 2015). "Directors' Fortnight Winners: 'My Golden Days', 'Mustang', 'Serpent' – Cannes". Deadline. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Cannes participants Valley of Love and Mustang land in theatres". Cineuropa. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  3. ^ "Mustang (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 9 February 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Mustang". Lumiere. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  5. ^ "Mustang". JP's Box-Office.
  6. ^ "Mustang". The Numbers.
  7. ^ "Controversial Film Mustang Wins Big at Cannes". EYES IN Magazine. 26 May 2015. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  8. ^ Jaafar, Ali (28 June 2016). "Daniel Craig In Talks To Star In L.A. Riots Pic 'Kings' Opposite Halle Berry". Deadline. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  9. ^ Hall, Gina (18 September 2018). "Deniz Gamze Ergüven's L.A. riots drama 'Kings' is a surprising follow-up to her Oscar-nominated 'Mustang'". Film Journal. Archived from the original on 6 October 2018. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d "Mustang Production Notes" (PDF). Curzon Artificial Eye. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d e Donadio, Rachel (18 November 2015). "With 'Mustang,' a Director Breaks Free of Cultural Confines". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d Felsenthal, Julia (13 November 2015). "Deniz Gamze Ergüven on Her Stunning New Movie, Mustang". Vogue. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  13. ^ King, Susan (19 November 2015). "'Mustang' is its director's message to Turkey about modern girls". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  14. ^ Richford, Rhonda (14 December 2015). "'Mustang' Director on How France's Turkish-Language Oscar Submission Straddles Two Cultures". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  15. ^ Rizov, Vadim (15 September 2015). ""We Were Doing a Scene Without a Camera": Five Questions for Mustang Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven". Filmmakers Magazine. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  16. ^ Cahill, Mikey (2 December 2015). "Warren Ellis of Dirty Three on Sugar Mountain Festival and the music score for film Mustang". Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  17. ^ "Sandra Bullock's 'Our Brand Is Crisis,' Robert Redford's 'Truth' to Premiere at Toronto". Variety. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  18. ^ "Mustang". 9 May 2018. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  19. ^ "Mustang". Metacritic. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  20. ^ Weissberg, Jay (19 May 2015). "Film Review: 'Mustang'". Variety. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  21. ^ Kiang, Jessica (24 May 2015). "Cannes Review: Directors' Fortnight Prize Winner 'Mustang' By First-Timer Deniz Gamze Ergüven". IndieWire. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  22. ^ Grierson, Tim (22 May 2015). "'Mustang': Review". Screen Daily. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  23. ^ Brody, Richard. "Mustang". The New Yorker. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  24. ^ Saunders, Tristram Fane. "Mustang, review: 'a powerful, uplifting portrait of defiance'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  25. ^ Ide, Wendy (15 May 2016). "Mustang review – teen tension in Anatolia". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  26. ^ Burr, Ty (14 January 2016). "In Turkey, five sisters with unbridled dreams". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  27. ^ Erdem, Suna (24 February 2016). "FILM REVIEW: Oscar-nominated "Mustang" polarizes opinion in Turkey". bne IntelliNews. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  28. ^ Cooke, Rachel (15 May 2016). "Deniz Gamze Ergüven: 'For women in Turkey it's like the middle ages'". The Observer. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  29. ^ "Oscar Nominations: The Complete List". The Hollywood Reporter. 14 January 2016.
  30. ^ "2015 Awards". Austin Film Critics Association. 30 December 2015.
  31. ^ "The 2017 AFCA Awards". Australian Film Critics Association. Archived from the original on 13 March 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  32. ^ ""Le fils de Saul", Grand Prix de l'Union de la Critique de Cinéma" (in French). RTBF. 10 January 2016. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  33. ^ "The Directors' Fortnight 2015 selection!". Quinzaine des Réalisateurs. Archived from the original on 23 April 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  34. ^ "'Golden Years,' 'Marguerite,' 'Dheepan,' 'Mustang' Lead Cesar Nominations". Variety.
  35. ^ "Critics' Choice Movie Awards". Critics' Choice Awards. 15 December 2015.
  36. ^ "Dallas-fort Worth Film Critics Name "spotlight" Best Picture Of 2015". Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. 15 December 2015.
  37. ^ "European Film Awards Winners 2015: Paolo Sorrentino's 'Youth' Scoops Best Film, Director & Actor For Michael Caine". Deadline.
  38. ^ "'Carol' leads 2015 Florida Film Critics Circle Awards Nominations". Florida Film Critics Circle. 22 December 2015.
  39. ^ Kermode, Jennie (28 February 2016). "Mustang wins Glasgow Film Festival Audience Award". Eye for Film. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  40. ^ "'Carol,' Netflix Lead Golden Globes Nomination". Variety. 10 December 2015.
  41. ^ "Premios Goya 30 - Los nominados". Academia de Cine.
  42. ^ "'The Bride' Leads Spain's Goya Award Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  43. ^ "'Carol,' 'Spotlight,' 'Beasts of No Nation' Lead Spirit Awards Nominations". Film Independent. 24 November 2015.
  44. ^ "Philippe Faucon's 'Fatima' Wins Louis Delluc Prize for Best French Film". Variety. 16 December 2015.
  45. ^ "Prix Lumières 2016 : Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse et Mustang en tête des nominations". AlloCiné. 4 January 2016.
  46. ^ "Mustang is the winner of this year's LUX Film Prize". European Parliament.
  47. ^ "NBR Freedom Of Expression". Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  48. ^ a b "WAFCS Awards".
  49. ^ Parande, Shweta (1 December 2015). "IFFI 2015: Award winners list at the 46th International Film Festival of India (In pics)".
  50. ^ "2015 Awards (19th Annual)". Online Film Critics Society. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
  51. ^ "2015 Winners". Ale Kino! International Young Audience Film Festival. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
  52. ^ "Satellite Awards Nominees Unveiled". The Hollywood Reporter. 1 December 2015.
  53. ^ "Stockholm Film Festival Announces 2015 Award Winners". Stockholm Film Festival. Archived from the original on 14 December 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  54. ^ "Palmarès Trophées du Film Français 2016 : la comédie à l'honneur !". AlloCiné.
  55. ^ "Award winners 2015". Archived from the original on 22 November 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2015.

External linksEdit