In our #Girlpower era, a film about battalion of Kurdish women fighting ISIS in North Kurdistan should be a slam dunk. But somewhere between idea and execution Girls of the Sun got a bit lost. Part of that may be that it is framed as being about a French war correspondent who embeds herself with this group of women and her story is a distraction. I was never sure why I should care about her. After all, the women she’s with have lived through absolute hell. The more interesting story is that of the female commander Bahar (Golshifteh Farahani) who lost her husband and son to ISIS and has a reason to be fighting the fight.
War correspondent Mathilde (Emmanuelle Bercot) wears an eye patch and has a sad tale about being in Homs under bombardment when she lost the eye. She’s an action junkie and getting pretty war weary. And damned if I didn’t think I’d seen her before in the better film A Private War. Commander Bahar on the other hand has a story to sink your teeth into. She’s a Yazidi lawyer who studied in France and through flashbacks we see the story of her family being torn apart, then her courageous journey from ISIS captive to Kurdish fighter. The film holds back on the depictions of the brutality ISIS inflicted on the women they captured and used as sex slaves. The director says she didn’t want it to be voyeuristic. But somehow what is said and shown comes off in places like a shopping list of atrocities without a central story.
I’m sure there is a film to be made about these fierce women warriors. Unfortunately, Girls of the Sun isn’t it. It has some poignant moments, but misses the mark by having two competing stories, neither of which feels complete.