Based on true events, Girls of the Sun is set during the volatile period of Isis expansion into Kurdish territory in northern Iraq. It follows Mathilde, a French war journalist (played by Emmanuelle Bercot) as she documents a group of Kurdish women anti-Isis fighters and their struggle to reclaim their town and the children captive within. A far cry from the warmth of her role in Jarmusch’s Paterson, Golshifteh Farahani plays the battalion’s leader, Bahar, whose own horrific back-story is revealed to us through flashbacks. Her capture was just one of the many stories of women and children killed or captured and sold (along with 7000 others) as sex-slaves. They are important stories to tell for many reasons, and Girls of the Sun pays special attention to the battalion’s uncompromising female spirit in the face of a ruthless misogynistic regime.
French director Eva Husson (Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)) handles plenty of tricky material with conviction, bringing about a movie that juggles the brutality of war with accessibility to a wider audience. In particular, Husson injects some edge-of-the-seat set pieces; a tense tunnel scene to match Sicario and a nerve-frying birthing scene reminiscent of Children of Men, are just a couple worthy of note. And while none of it is original movie-making, the sum of its parts is a bruising assault on the nerves.
Not without its faults, the film does occasionally lose focus, suffering from the (enviable) problem of having too many stories to tell; the displaced Kurdish people, the treatment of women and children, the plight of western journalists, and the personal stories of each participant all struggle for attention in a film that tries its best to narrow its scope.
As a result, Husson’s film does become a little uneven in parts—its style bouncing between a taut gritty war tale and melodrama. Nonetheless, Husson’s confident approach, if occasionally overbearing, built enough suspense and sympathy to get me swept up in the film’s cause.