Lale, 13, lives with her sisters in a small village of southern Turkey. Summer begins, the school year ends. On the way home from school the girls play innocently with some boys by the water, without ever imagining there could be consequences to such an innocent act. The girls are orphans and cared for by their archaic grandmother and authoritarian uncle, who are more concerned in protecting the family’s honour than they are in allowing the girls their freedom and basic rights. The girls are kept inside the house and are no longer allowed to leave at their will or go to school. Effectively prisoners in their own home, the girls refuse to be passive and begin to device their exit strategy, they stick together, sharing their collective dream of freedom. Meanwhile, their marriages are being arranged by their grandmother, and they are one by one being married off. Lale, the youngest realizes she must escape or face the same destiny as her sisters.
MUSTANG is fast, busy, and I have often felt that the momentum of the writing and the pace of the film were entwined in a way that urged each other forward. This energy is, for me, the heart of the film, like the wild horse that gave it its name. This film grew from my profound desire to tell of what it means to be a girl in Turkey today. I have always been struck by what a particular experience this is. The one thing I have in common with the narrator and main character of the film is to be the youngest in a family nebula of girls and women. While the outlines of each situation are very real, the tone of the film is that of a tale. There is a mythical quality to the world as perceived by Lale and narrated by her voice, which lends its music to the film, establishes ellipses and gives the narrative a wholly subjective logic composed of sensations, impressions and memories. Mustang is first and foremost the story of a liberation and of Lale’s coming-of-age. There are obstacles and monsters to cross along her way. The football game is the symbolic ball the girls dream of attending. Lale has been reinvested with a very specific courage and strength, irreverent and untamable. It is important that in the end she wins, and in the most improbable and exhilarating way.