Girls of the Sun (2018) by Eva Husson
Review by Lydia Creech
I kinda liked it? But I 100% see a lot of the criticism this film has been getting….
In her director’s intro, Eva Husson explained that this was based on true accounts of female Kurdish combat units. There have been several newsy, expose pieces over the years about the female Peshmerna (or PKK? The movie flattens the various political and ethnic groups, which has drawn a bit of criticism out of Canne), and Girls of the Sun combines a lot of the journalism and accounts to present a sort of coherent picture of one unit. It follows the audience “in,” French war correspondent Mathilde (Emmanuelle Bercot) as she is embedded in a unit made up specifically of escaped or rescued Yazidi (the movie never specifics this, apparently) women.
The unit is led by Captain Bahar (Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani), and her backstory (father and husband executed, child stolen, sold with her sister into sex slavery) is supposed to stand for all the women’s. The women are formidable soldiers (they make this terrifying, ululating war cry), and the cause of fighting ISIS to reclaim your homeland (and regain a sense of personal agency) is as sympathetic as you can get.
Right away, you can see how the telling of this sort of story could fall into cinematic and narrative cliche. I can’t say that it bothered me that much, though. The story of these women seems an obvious pick to make a movie about, and Husson directs a war movie as well as any I’ve seen (leaving aside the thorny ethical issues of the value of making war movies at all and/or maybe this isn’t Husson’s story to tell...), with gorgeous widescreen cinematography to boot.