Fighting for a free Kurdistan, a female battalion fights for the liberation of their town from extremists. A french journalist dedicated to chronicling the truth risks her life to witness their story. Director Eva Husson’s Girls of the Sun (in French, Les filles de soleil) sacrifices clarity of plot to give us a film that both devastates and inspires with wonderful acting and a compelling story. (RMM: 4/5)
Review by FF2 Associate Roza M. Melkumyan
We begin by getting acquainted with “Mathilde” (Emmanuelle Bercot), a french journalist almost certainly inspired by the real-life American journalist, Marie Colvin, who worked as a foreign affairs correspondent for British newspaper The Sunday Times from 1985 until her death. Both Mathilde and Colvin wear an eyepatch. Mathilde credits the siege of Homs in Syria to the loss of her eye. The late Colvin would credit it with her death.
After what feels like an eternity of waiting, Mathilde finally manages to arrange a helicopter flight into the heart of the battlefield that was once Kurdistan. Though she misses her young daughter and still mourns the loss of her late husband, killed in Homs, Mathilde is dedicated to chronicling the truth. It’s all that gives her comfort now. Pushing her fear of death aside, she resolves to remain where the action is.
As Mathilde follows these fighters through their first three days of combat, she becomes better acquainted with their unflinching, intelligent leader, “Bahar” (Golshifteh Farahani), who has endured her own hell. A former lawyer, wife, and mother, Bahar has lost her husband to the bullet of extremists and has had her living son ripped from her arms. She has been raped, sold into captivity, and made a slave to the men who took everything away from her. Bahar fights not only for her son but for herself, so that she might come out of this war knowing she took a stand.
As the women prepare to take back their town from the extremists, flashbacks of Bahar’s journey into and out of captivity help us understand her story, her motives, and the source of her strength. Women are the heart of this film, with their bond serving as their rally cry.
Written and directed by Eva Husson, Girls of the Sun has a terrible, wonderful way of reminding us of our capability to feel. It is amid a film market saturated in violence and explosion that it is, in fact, our duty to feel when we see gunshots fired and human lives destroyed by fighting. A film such as this is not violent for no reason, and it would do us well to remember that the events of this film, however gruesome or terrible, are very much grounded in reality. Such reality shows through the incredibly expressive eyes of both the female leads, Bercot and Farahani. Eyes truly do serve as the windows into the souls as we see their stories of hardship, heartbreak, and perseverance unfold before us.
The strength of our two female leads should be enough of a reason to watch this film. The stories of women throughout history have been lost time and time again, and it is time to take back every bit that we’ve collectively forgotten. I am not just interested in seeing more female representation within and in the making of films; I want to see those stories of women which history has neglected to tell us.
Feeling rules over fact in Husson’s visual work here. And though clarity of plot and the details of this film may have been skipped over, it is the overall feeling of perseverance through hardship that rules this film. From the very beginning, I felt that I was inhabiting a space both dangerous in atmosphere yet necessary to explore, so that I myself might better understand just what extraordinary things that women are capable of.
© Roza M. Melkumyan (4/10/19) FF2 Media
Top Photo: Mathilde looks on.
Middle Photo: Bahar leads her battalion through enemy territory.
Bottom Photo: Bahar waits with determination.
Photo Credits: Cinéart
Q: Does Girls of the Sun pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
Yes. Women are the heart of this film.They speak to each other about their lives before the war, their families, and their dedication to the fight.