In Kurdistan, Bahar (Golshifteh Farahani) is commander of the Daughters of the Sun battalion. They are preparing to free her city from the hands of Islamists, hoping to find her son who is behind enemy lines. A French journalist, Mathilde (Emmanuelle Bercot, of “Mon Roi” fame, among others), joins their platoon to cover the offensive and bring attention to these women warriors. Strong women, who take charge of their own destiny, fighting against Islamic soldiers. Clearly, the #metoo movement was on my mind. And, if it weren’t for the film’s imperfections, I would’ve thought that, with Cate Blanchett as president of the jury, “Girls of the sun” was a serious contender for the Palme D’Or.
A feature narrative-as-homage, “Girls of the sun” recounts the lives and battles of real-life Yezidi women who formed a militia, known as the Sinjar Women’s Protection Units (YJS), to fight ISIS in Iraq. The Islamic state massacred, raped and exploited these women, while stealing their children. The Yazidis are a minority population whose beliefs combine elements of Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism, which makes them targets, since ISIS considers them apostates. The irony is that ISIS fighters believe that if they are killed by a woman they will not get to heaven.
Filmmaker Eva Husson’s passionate approach to her material is discernible. Under Farahani’s lead, characters appear noble and valiant, women who put up with great sacrifice just to be a part of a cause. The sisterhood between these women is extraordinary. One scene in particular stuck to my mind, which involves the delivering of a baby. “The Girls of the Sun” unfortunately suffers from too much sentiment that veers on the melodramatic, the narrative moves in fits and starts, the first part of “Girls” lacking structure. Films by woman filmmakers about strong on-screen characters aren’t legion. This is a very important movie for this Cannes Festival, in this regard, and also because it helps to highlight what unsung heroes the Yazidi fighters are.