Adam Woodward


Girls of the Sun – first look review

Eva Husson’s timely ode to female resistance and survival sees an all-female Kurdish battalion take on ISIS.

Raped. Sold. Tortured. Eva Husson’s urgent and unflinching feminist war drama states its aim in no uncertain terms: to open our eyes to the horrific reality facing millions of women globally today. Specifically, Girls of the Son tells the inspiring story of a group of women who lay siege to a small Kurdish town in order to reclaim it from the hands of extremists.

Shadowing the battalion is a French photojournalist, played by Emmanuelle Bercot, who in her previous appearance at Cannes in 2015 received the Best Actress award for Mon Roi. A serious contender for that award this time around is Golshifteh Farahani, who builds on her impressive turns in About Elly and Paterson with a commanding central performance here.

As aspiring lawyer-turned-embattled squad leader Bahar, the Iranian actor is a beacon of hope and light in a world of chaos and male rage. Though Husson’s script leaves something to be desired – the dialogue is at times overly earnest and a little stilted – through her actions, her intellect and her resilience Bahar speaks for all those women whose voices have been silenced.

Husson has said that she was inspired to make the film after reading about real-life Kurdish women in Syria and Iraq, who were taken hostage by ISIS and sold as sex slaves. A pre-title sequence disclaimer informs us that the characters and events depicted in the film have been modified to some extent (although Bercot’s Mathilde bears a striking resemblance to the American war reporter Marie Colvin – eye patch and all – who was killed in 2012 while covering the siege of Homs in Syria), yet importantly Husson doesn’t spare us the grizzly details of what women like Bahar have been forced to endure.

The timing of this impassioned ode to female resistance and survival feels right, especially on a night when 82 women from across the film industry assembled on the red carpet to protest against the lack of female representation in the official selection across 71 editions of the festival (82 female directors versus 1,688 male since 1946). It’s a flawed work, but it may just end up scooping the top prize at Cannes this year. There have been far less worthy recent Palme d’Or winners.

Published 12 May 2018

Tags: Cannes Eva Husson Golshifteh Farahani

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