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FNE at Cannes 2018: Review: Girls of the Sun

FNE at Cannes 2018: Review: Girls of the Sun Girls of the Sun, dir. Eva Husson

CANNES: Director Eva Husson has based her latest film Girls in the Sun on a real events. Yazidi women were forced to watch their men being slaughtered, then they were kidnapped, raped and sold into slavery.  Some of the Yazidi women bravely managed to escape and join the women’s brigades of Kurdish fighters to fight against ISIS and while the Yazidi are never actually mentioned in the film by name this is obviously their story. 

Husson turns this into an action style war movie the type that usually has an all-male cast of protagonists and this was clearly intentional.  Where Husson seems to go wrong is when she tries to make these fighters spout feminist theory and propaganda as if this were part of normal everyday speech.  It comes across as stilted and unlikely and seems to hark back to the speeches that were a staple of the official communist party before the end of the Soviet Union. Are we about to see a flash-back to the Women’s Red Brigade of Death?

The story is about Mathilde played by Emmanuelle Bercot a French journalist who lost an eye reporting the fighting in Homs and now wears an eye patch.  But she also has deeper scars from the horrors she has witnessed.  She has come to be Kurdistan to be embedded with an all women unit of the Peshmerga.

When she arrives she meets Bahar played by Golshifteh Farahani the leader of the women fighters who are ready to go into battle against ISIS.  Mathilde finds out that Bahar’s unit is made up entirely of former ISIS captives and as the action progresses we get flashbacks of Bahar’s horrific back story.  Bahar’s husband and son were slaughtered by ISIS and unfortunately this is a story that was all too common as ISIS swept across Syria and Iraq inflicting torture and devastation on the people. Finally Bahar and her sisters have a chance to fight back and they do so with bravery and a vengenance.

Much of the action was shot in Georgia which has lately become a top destination for gritty films that need realistic fighting and battle scenes.  Local production company 20 Steps Productions http://www.20steps.ge once again delivers first rate services and the location shooting and action is one of the film’s strongest points.  The production also benefited from Georgia’s cash rebate scheme.

It is truly a heroic story and Husson tells it with earnestness and sincerity.  And that is just the problem.  Because the film is too earnest and the characters come across not as real people but as cut-out figures delivering stilted lines that are not believable in the battle conditions we are supposed they were uttered.

The music and songs the women sing to get ready to go into battle further undermine the credibility of the film.  While it is good to see an all-fighting, all female gritty action film with women in all the heroic roles the film never manages to convince us that these are real characters.  One suspects that Husson was so overwhelmed by the genuine bravery of these women in real life that she treated the subject with too much sincerity.  Sometimes the most truthful story has to become fiction to make us understand and feel the truth.

Credits: Girls of the Sun (France/Belgium/Georgia/Switzerland)

Directed by Eva Husson

Produced by Maneki Films in coproduction with Wild Bunch and Arches Films, Gapbusters, Georgia’s 20 Steps Productions, Bord Cadre films, in association with Elle Driver, BackUp Media, B Media 2014, Indéfilms 6 and Cinécap, and with the participation of Canal +, OCS, RTBF, Proximus, Tax Shelter Casa Kafka Pictures and the Wallonie-Bruxelles Federation

Supported by the French CNC (support for new technologies in production and development support), Creative Europe Programme – MEDIA of the European Union, ANGOA, Aquitaine région and the Film In Georgia cash rebate system and Georgian National Film Centre www.gnfc.ge

Sales: Elle Driver 

Cast: Golshifteh Farahani, Emmanuelle Bercot, Zübeyde Bulut, Maia Shamoevi, Evin Ahmadguli, Nia Mirianashvili, Mari Semidovi, Roza Mirzoiani, Zinaida Gasoiani, Sinama Alievi, Ahmet Zirek, Behi Djanati Ataï, Adik Bakoni, Tornike Alievi, Nuka Asatiani, Arabi Ghibeh

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