Girls of the Sun against ISIS

The film Girls of the Sun doesn’t only analyze women’s fight against ISIS, it also stresses the fighting character of the women in Shengal.

“Your presence alone is a victory. The very act of refusing oppression is a victory. Fighting is a victory. All they have killed is our fear. With each sister who was captured, a warrior was born.”

These poetic words continue, but they are not from any poem. These are from Girls of the Sun, a film about the Kurdish women’s fight against ISIS gangs. “Girls of the Sun” is among the 21 films running for the Golden Palm in the 71st International Film Festival, and was screened on Saturday for curious audiences.

The film is about Kurdish women fighting ISIS, and is 105 minutes long. At first glance, it looks like the film is about the fight against ISIS, but the focus is on the women’s will, strength and faith in victory. Director Eva Husson reflects these concepts through an Êzidî woman, Bahar, who was captured by ISIS and achieved freedom later on.


The film opens with dramatic, action-filled and tense scenes where the story is told through the French journalist Mathilde (played by Emmanuelle Bercot). The film focuses on the ISIS attack against ISIS, the massacre, the capture of women and the victory of women who fought them. Director Eva Husson also wrote the screenplay for the film, and says, “I wrote such a screenplay because I was affected by the tyranny and massacre, and news of the abducted women,” stressing the reality of the film.


The main character in the film, Bahar, is played by exiled Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, who is known for her roles in Bahman Ghobadi films. The film opens with French journalist Mathilde arriving in the Shengal mountains with a helicopter. The journalist is received by the fighter women. The dialogue suggests that the journalist has been in Kobanê before, and knows some of the women from there. We witness Mathilde and Bahar’s encounter as the film continues in an atmosphere of war, death and panic as Kurdish fighter women are trying to save the villages and towns from ISIS.


Bahar has an image of the harsh, angry and disciplined fighter, while the journalist is in a position where she wants to learn everything. What they have in common is that they are both women, and mothers. This brings them closer. Bahar is a fighter woman who studied in France, and who lost her husband in the ISIS attack during her visit to her family in Shengal, was captured along with her son, was raped, but later managed to get her freedom. Mathilde is a war correspondent journalist. She lost her husband who had the same job in another war, and is worried for her child who is alone in France. Their losses and searches are added to their womanhood and motherhood, and they have similar pains.


The film Girls of the Sun doesn’t only analyze women’s fight against ISIS, it also stresses the fighting character of the women in Shengal. It points out that some male fighter groups didn’t participate in the joint struggle in Shengal. The women under Bahar’s command fight both ISIS, and this mentality. The film brings to the light both the figting, resisting side of Kurdish women and their emotional, delicate and humane sides. Songs in the Sorani dialect and dances reference the daily lives of Kurdish guerillas.

The film shows attempts to rescue the enslaved women and the conditions of women who were sold off, and gives credit to the positive role some imams played in the rescue. The director draws a clear distinction between the religion of Islam and ISIS.


The film ends with the Kurdish fighter women using tunnels to raid the headquarters of ISIS members. Some fighters lose their lives in the raid, while Mathilde is wounded in a Coalition bombing during clashes in the city. Mathilde’s notes are shown on the screen as she is taken to the hospital. The notes include information on the ISIS massacres in Shengal in 2014, the abducted Êzidî women and children and the women who fight against this. Bahar’s child is among the hundreds rescued by the end of the film.


The film is full of action-packed and tense scenes, and the clashes are realistic, while visual effects make the visual direction perfect. There are some weak points in the scenaro, but overall it is quite successful.
The names of YPJ or YJŞ are not mentioned in the film, but they use the YJA-Star guerillas’ uniforms and show some banners in Shengal. The film has received some criticism by a limited circle in Cannes for laying the propaganda on too thick, but in general was received well.

Lead actresses Golshifteh Farahani and Emmanuelle Bercot are accompanied by Êzidî actress Zübeyde Bulut in the role of Lamia.

Girls of the Sun is one of the 3 films directed by women in Cannes this year, and looks like it will take home some awards from the festival. Emmanuelle Bercot, who has a previous award from Cannes, and Golshifteh Farahani are among the candidates for “Best Actress”.