Desire from afar as the idea of someone is always greater than the reality. After all, dream girls can only exist in dreams and the closer you get the more their light dims. Maintain the fantasy and there will never be enough colours in the spectrum to paint the beauty that your imagination sees.
I move through life with my eyes wide shut. That way, I can see more clearly. People forget that our eyes can’t be trusted as they’re constantly playing tricks on us. So, instead of being guided by the visual, I surrender to the unknown and allow the universe to steer me in the direction that I’ve always been destined to travel.
Night after night my nightmares remain the same… I’m pursued by a dark figure wishing to do me harm. My only chance at escape – flying. Whilst I possess no wings, I know I can do it. I know it because there’s something special inside of me. But as much as I try to soar, my feet remain agonisingly rooted to the ground. And then, only until the figure is looming menacingly over me, do I finally wake up. I wonder… what does it all mean?
You always fall asleep after we make love and I can’t help but watch you. As I do so, I become hypnotically familiar with every inch of your perfection. Still sheened by sweat, your skin glows under the caress of moonlight reaching in from the window. Your lips are as soft as velvet. A glance at your penis sends memories of pleasure rippling across my body. My perfume wafts from you. Inhale, exhale your breathing is as gentle and rhythmic as waves against a shore. And finally, when I’m drunk enough from your beauty, I snuggle into your arms and allow your presence to lull me to sleep. You are simply a work of art belonging in a Parisian gallery.
My very own sleeping beauty…
While others are seduced by the flickers of TV screens or absorbed into the quicksand of social media feeds, I spend my long afternoons staring into the mirror, just staring. Like Frida Kahlo, I’ve become a connoisseur of my own physical presence. Over time, every blemish or imperfection has been imprinted permanently into my mind and memories… the subtle way my lower lip is a deeper shade of pink than my upper… the way my face minutely slants to one side… how my freckles fall mostly on my right… my slightly thicker left eyebrow. I don’t pay such close attention to myself out of vanity or insecurity, but out of necessity – how else would I find the answers that I seek?
Ever since I was banished from the warmth and bliss of my mother’s womb, I’ve always felt agonizingly lost and alone. Who am I? What does my destiny hold? Will I ever find love? I’ve always been a searcher on the lookout for answers I seemingly can never find. All I can do now is hope, just hope that if I look deep into my own eyes or gaze up at the stars long enough, the universe and my true calling will finally unravel itself to me. Of course, it never does. Instead, I’m paralyzed with the weight of not knowing.
With all the time spent in introspective thought, I’ve come to realise that nothing is more revealing and naked than the face. Our every memory and experience – positive or negative, is forever etched into every pore and wrinkle in our skin. Like a book, if we really gaze into each other’s faces, it’s possible to understand a person’s entire life story without them uttering a word. Someway or another, our deepest secrets are always revealed. After all, you can never hide what the face wants to speak.
Always gone before dawn and back after dusk; growing up I saw my mother break her back and work herself to the bone, just to barely be able to keep a (leaky) roof over our heads. Sure, to everyone else we were poor. To us, we were beyond wealthy with each other’s love. I adored my mother growing up and appreciated how hard she fought for the little we had. But seeing her lose her freedom, joy and all chance at finding love in pursuit of that dollar, I vowed to myself, “Never get trapped in the rat race. Never get trapped in the 9-5.” You have to understand, ever since I was a little girl I had dreams of being known and making money, serious money. I wanted to be my own boss, taking charge and always calling the shots. But how could I possibly achieve that? Luckily, I grew up in a place called Atlanta, the heart and soul of Georgia. And in Atlanta, if you wanted to be a real boss, making real money, you had two options – rapping or stripping. With a glorious behind, thick enough to stop traffic and make husbands want to cheat – I chose the latter. I chose to be a stripper. I. Chose.
Atlanta strippers aren’t like the ones you see on movies, TV screens or even in other states – we don’t abuse drugs and we don’t have daddy issues. On the whole, we’re independent women with entrepreneur spirits. Preferring to earn our own money rather than having it given to us. We’re empowered. And empowered women only go to one place in Atlanta… While actors go to LA, soccer players to Europe, strippers, the very good ones at least, go to Magic City. At 18, like a moth to an open flame, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the neon lights of the best strip club in America, possibly the world. Magic City, a place where diamonds sparkle, champagne pours and money rains. In my first month stripping, I made more money in a month than my mother did in an entire year…
Stop. I know what you’re thinking, “No one chooses to be a stripper…” But you’d be wrong, I did and I do, every day. I know about choice feminism – you can’t shake your arse 24/7, sometimes you have to pick up a book – which says if a woman comes from a less privileged background, she can’t have true choice as the options are limited. However, that is not me, at all. Sure, I came from a poor family, but I always had good grades and determination… If I wanted to, I could have been that lawyers or that surgeon. Yet, I choose to strip because I loved the idea of being constantly desired and always the center of attention. It excites me to have men grovel at my feet and watch them spend all their money just to be near me. Just for a second, when that spotlight hits me and the music pulses, I feel as if the whole world stops turning and all eyes are on me. Magic.
Don’t get me wrong, I know I can’t strip forever – I’m not stupid. Sooner or later, time even beats the best of surgeon’s scalpels. I’ve got plans. When the last song is played and the last dollar is thrown, I’m going to take my entrepreneurial spirit to the next level and run my very own club. And it’ll be the best in town because I know this business better than anybody else. I know the best DJs. I’ll know how to treat my dancers better. Most of all, I’ll have more hustle in me than anyone else does. Period. I was born to strip. I was born to live that American dream.
“Film is my tool. It’s how I switch people’s minds on to something. It’s how I participate”- Deniz Gamze Erguven
East vs. West. Religion vs. Secularism. Patriarchy vs. Women. Thanks to geography and history, modern Turkey has become an explosive concoction of contradiction and beauty. Constantly in cultural flux and political unrest, Turkey provides director Deniz Gamze Erguven the ample ground needed to allow Mustang to blossom into a superbly moving and engaging feature.
Aided by the vivid narration of the youngest protagonist – Sonay, Mustang tells the story of five orphaned sisters, trapped in a remote Turkish village by an overbearing uncle and traditional grandmother. Despite the strict regime, Lale, Nur, Ece, Selma and Sonay are still able to imbue every waking moment together with fun, excitement and happiness; solidarity keeps them strong. However, the rich tapestry of their lives soon begins to unravel as the full force of tradition pulls them apart and pushes them towards arranged marriages. Sonay; naturally feisty and fiercely independent, is the most aggrieved by it all and soon does everything within her power to rebel.
Many have made comparisons with Sofia Coppola’s Virgin Suicides, while admittedly some elements are similar, ultimately such connections are lazy and completely misguided; Erguven’s film is superior in its complexity and vibrancy. Turkish by heritage but born in France, Erguven understands more than most how a dual cultural identity can shape ‘self’ and personal world view. And it’s this fundamental understanding of being two different things at the same time, which burns bright at the centre of Mustang and infuses it with an extra layer of authenticity. Whilst Erguven’s female perspective allows Mustang to explore the role of girlhood within Turkish society, with refreshing verve as well as unflinching honesty.
Whilst Mustang has been with a rapturous reception; even garnering a nomination for Best Foreign Film, sadly, at home in Turkey it has attracted much criticism and hostility. However, with current political upheavals under President Erdogan’s administration, once again cinema cements its vital status as a dissector and questioner of society.
8.8 / 10