Girls of the Sun

By Moira Sullivan

Girls of the Sun directed and written by French filmmaker Eva Husson is in San Francisco and one of three films made by women selected for the official competition at Cannes last May. It is an ambitious effort that tells the story of female soldiers called the "Girls of the Sun" battalion, based on a true story from August 2014 set in the Sinjar Mountains of northern Iraq. This was Yazidi territory with 300,000 inhabitants. It becomes the prime target of ISIS attacks in genocidal warfare affecting  Yazidi’s who do not escape in time. The female battalion is committed to rescuing their young boys forced to attend Jihadist schools. The impetus to their bravery is born out of misery - 2000 women and children are driven to destinations in Raqqa in Iraq where they are sexually assaulted, tortured, sold as slaves or forced to marry.

Since a woman’s army is unusual for a film (Born in Flames (1984) by Lizzie Borden is a classic example of "speculative fiction" about a woman's army),  Husson’s narrative trajectory is in retracing the history of what made the women soldiers. Their choice is different from the men who enlist, and they are asked to fight against ISIS by the Syrian army, with Kurdish fighters in Iraq. They battle for 15 months and today the location of at least 2000 women who were captured is unknown.  Flashbacks illustrate how this happened. Their villages have been plundered, their loved ones executed, their relatives raped, their children abducted. 

There are many "militainment" films set in the Middle East today, but Eva Husson's battle scenes are not exploited as in most war films and she attempts to show the reality of the women. They know that if they kill a male hostile he will not go to heaven. Lead actress Golshifteh Farahani plays the commandant Bahar a relentless uncompromising and fierce warrior We learn that her family has been captured and her sister assaulted. Parallel to Bahar’s bravery is that of the French female journalist Mathilde (Emmanuelle Bercot) who enlists to investigate the women’s battalion and the story of Bahar.

While promoting the film at Cannes last year, Husson reveals that 95% of cinema is told from a male perspective. The making of this film and the innovative storytelling and perspectives of the female battalion soldiers is an important step for this prestigious festival in changing the way female warriors are depicted.

© 2019 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 04/23/19

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