“Mustang” director Deniz Gamze Ergüven was tired of only seeing the world in the cinema solely from a male perspective, so she made her own movie.
“It’s pioneer territory,” she said of her movie, which was selected as the French entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars this year.
The movie tells the story of five Turkish orphaned sisters who struggle to live under the constraints of a conservative society.
“In cinema history, we are used to seeing the world through the eyes of men,” she said, explaining that perspective restricts the way we look at history and society. “Mustang” was her way of telling her own story, which wasn’t being told by anyone else.
“A lot of steps of the way in the experience of being a woman, I was thinking, ‘Nobody ever told me this,'” she said. “Very specific things, like women’s desire is almost never in cinema.”
Ergüven based the story on her own experiences as a Turkish woman, or those of her family, with one key distinction: “In similar situations, I just looked at my shoes, didn’t say anything and was mortified,” the director explained. “The girls have this very courageous reaction each time.”
“It’s all those things that you wish you had done, said. It’s the dream version of yourself,” she said.
In casting the five sisters, Ergüven was determined to find actresses, even relative amateurs, who were as close to the written characters as possible. The casting director saw thousands of actresses, with Ergüven herself watching hundreds of auditions.
“I always considered the five girls as one body — a hydra. So it was impossible to start attributing parts before we had the five of them. It had to click magically,” she said. “And eventually one day it clicked perfectly.”