The University of Rhode Island’s Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures is hosting the Tournées French Film Festival for the third year in a row. This past Tuesday night they held a screening of “Mustang” in Chaffee Hall. The festival was sponsored by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S., the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animeé, and the Franco-American Cultural Fund.
“Mustang” is set in the Turkish countryside and is a very powerful coming of age film for the movie’s female lead. It depicts the hardship of their family’s strict and cultural traditions. The film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars and won awards in France at the César Awards as well. The director of the film is Turkish, but spent time growing up in France. Assistant professor of French and film Leslie Kealhofer-Kemp said often times if the film is partially funded by France then it would be considered a French film. Kealhofer-Kemp is the one in charge of choosing which films will be screened said she chose to screen this film because it brought up a broader discussion about women’s rights.
The film told a story of five sisters who are deprived of their parents, and live with their grandmother and uncle. After skipping the bus one day after school, the girls decided to go to the beach with their classmates. They play a game which require the girls to sit on the boy’s shoulders as they try to push each other off. Later, when they get back home they come to find out their grandmother was informed by a neighbor of their actions that afternoon and their Uncle Erol is extremely angry because of it. The girls are punished for acting inappropriately around boys and are forbidden to leave the house or to go back to school in order to protect their chastity. The girls are then forced to cover themselves by wearing long dresses and are taught to cook by their other female relatives as way to prepare the five sisters for future arranged marriages. The film really revolves around the youngest sister, who is the most daring and rebellious and goes out to great lengths to find ways to escape to Istanbul with her sisters.
Kealhofer-Kemp said the festival was funded by a grant the french section applied for and were awarded by the French-American culture exchange. She said there is a Tournees festival every year which is nationwide, and when you get the grant, the idea is to choose six films, five contemporary films and one classic film, from a set list. “I try to pick a diversity of films,” Kealhofer-Kemp said. “So that students, faculties, and members of the community discover different types of films.” She also explained that part of the idea is to introduce French culture and cinema into the U.S. through schools.