Girls of the Sun screenshot / Vimeo
I was on the edge of my seat for most of the duration of Girls of the Sun, a French film by Eva Husson.
The timely film is a work of fiction, but just barely. Bahar (played phenomenally by Golshifteh Farahani) is the leader of the Girls of the Sun, a group very similar to the real-life YPJ — a 24,000-strong organisation of women soldiers in Syria who are currently fighting Isis. Mathilde is a French war journalist who is assigned to cover Bahar’s battalion, who lost an eye on the job just like American journalist Marie Colvin did in 2001.
The sobering parallels turned me into a heartache-y mess as I watched. After Trump recently announced the withdrawal of American troops from Northern Syria, the futures of the film characters' real-life counterparts seem bleaker than ever.
For those who are lucky enough to catch a screening, the film will leave you humbled, depressed and yet consoled by the strength of the female characters. A lot of the time, I felt like a war reporter myself, observing the women with a haunting fascination.
Through scattered flashbacks, we learn about what the surviving women have endured — the murder of their male relatives, having their children forced into ‘lion cub schools’ where they are trained to kill, and being sold into domestic sex slavery. We see Bahar pre-war, a lawyer in a cushy, high-backed chair, then suddenly a hardened, hollow Bahar staring the audience in the eyes. The arbitrary dips into memory lane and pockets of trauma remind me of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
Unlike other war films, other feminist films, and other feminist war films (the rarest of the three) Girls of the Sun is unafraid of being raw and partial to the experiences of Kurdish women. They’re resilient, vengeful and tender. They’re mothers with guns.
I knew they were powerful from the very beginning, but after discovering their secret weapon (their Jihadist enemy believes that you will go straight to hell if killed by a woman) my fascination only grew.
At times, however, it’s difficult to piece together what’s happening. In the beginning, for example, the audience has no choice but to absorb the recounted trauma and piece Bahar’s story together, thrust straight into the action with no time to orient themselves beforehand. Reviewers have given mixed ratings on the somewhat clumsy merging of action scenes with heartfelt drama, and the inconsistent focus on Mathilde, then Bahar, then Lamia. Which is what makes me believe that Girls of the Sun, while a stirring film, would be better, stunning even, as a novel.
In its current form, though, Girls of the Sun is a film that will resonate with everyone. Everyone knows love, and thus everyone knows grief. The film is all about what the women feel. What gets them up in the morning, what makes them unable to sleep at night.
In a world where we are rapidly becoming desensitised to all-too-distant wars and unfathomable violence, Girls of the Sun is a jarring dose of deep emotions. That is, after all, what drives the women. Bahar loves her son, whom she searches for, but others are fuelled by vengeance, hope, or a desire for justice or truth.
Bahar said, as she was rousing her soldiers, “the very act of refusing oppression is a victory.”
“Fighting is a victory.”
And everyone needs to hear it.
For show times of Girls of the Sun, click hereSupport Villainesse