In a rather surprising move, France has chosen the crowd-pleasing Mustang to represent the country over the Cannes Palme d’Or winner Dheepan from Jacques Audiard. Curiouser still, the jury that made the decision included Thierry Fremeaux, Cannes’ artistic director.
No slacker in the awards department, Mustang won a Directors’ Fortnight Europa Cinemas prize at Cannes this year and will be distributed by Cohen Media Group and is set for a November release.
Mustang tells the story of a village in northern Turkey where Lale and her four sisters are walking home from school, playing innocently with some boys. The immorality of their play sets off a scandal that has unexpected consequences. The family home is progressively transformed into a prison; instruction in homemaking replaces school and marriages start being arranged. The five sisters who share a common passion for freedom, find ways of getting around the constraints imposed on them.
France hasn’t selected a film directed by a foreign born director since 1977 when Madame Rosa, directed for Israeli Moshé Mizrahi won. Also this is the first time since the Brazilian co-production Orpheu Negro in 1959 where a French submission wass spoken fully in a language other than French (this time in a Turkish-speaking drama).
Among the other film Mustang beat out were Stephane Brize’s Cannes Best Actor winner The Measure of a Man, Catherine Corsini’s TIFF entry Summertime and Xavier Giannoli’s touted Venice premiere Marguerite. France’s last foreign Oscar nomination was for Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet, in 2010. Before the inception of the Foreign Language Film Oscar France won Honorary Awards in 1948, 1950 and 1952, has been nominated 36 times and won 9 times, the last being Indochine in 1993.