Girls of the Sun (Les Filles du Soleil)
Eva Husson’s Girls of the Sun holds a righteous, angry, unrepentant focus on Kurdish women and their battle against ISIS extremists. We’re given the horror, but one strangely undercut by a too-neat conclusion, predictable dialogue and unnecessary brooding. The film features an extraordinary performance from Golshifteh Farahani as the tragic, determined Bahar, and overall this is brutal, riveting and – in a complicated way – empowering.
Mathilde (Emmanuelle Bercot) enters Kurdistan to cover the female fighters on the frontline. Wearing an eye-patch due to shrapnel wounds, she’s presumably partly based on the late Marie Colvin, who was murdered by the Assad government in 2012. Breaking the back of recent bereavement, Mathilde returns to work. It’s all she knows. Clumsy phone conversations with her young daughter only draw upon, refine and develop her sense of loss, her numbed impulsion to cover conflict.
We don’t see Mathilde’s past, only its effects. But when meeting Bahar, the tough, intelligent, impassioned female commander of the battalion, we’re plunged into memory. The terrors are unfathomable and many. Her losses are partly mirrored in Mathilde, and she’s now a soldier desperate to reclaim her son. Once a lawyer with a family, she’s unable to accept what has been taken from her. The shots that almost bookend the film provide Bahar’s stunning portrait: one of shock, grace and vengeance fulfilled.
Sometimes the script preaches on truth and value to ill effect. There are clumsy ruminations on ethical war reportage, and the stylised compositions often aestheticise rather than clarify the anguish. Morgan Kibby’s eager, obstructive score predicts and lessens feeling when the images speak for themselves. This indicates Husson’s unfortunate tendency to amplify trauma to distortion instead of for effect, although this works for the heightened, rapid breathing patterns, for capturing the fear of death impending.
The tension of battle, the apprehensive sneaking and the ruptures of violence are expertly choreographed. Girls of the Sun will be written about as a feminist war film, but it speaks to one form of empowerment. Killing with skill and efficiency is the only option left to Kurdish women who are raped, beaten and imprisoned. This produces strong, unflinching warriors and there should be no pleas for pacifism. But by reclaiming war as ungendered, or feminine, or universal to liberty and the human condition, do we reach a queasy, despondent conclusion? Perhaps not – perhaps only conflict can quell the horror.
Girls of the Sun (Les Filles du Soleil) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch a clip from Girls of the Sun (Les Filles du Soleil) here: