The cast of Mustang photographed by Caitlin Cronenberg.

Tapping vigorously at their iPhones and giggling among themselves in the lobby of their hotel during the Toronto International Film Festival, Tugba Sunguroglu, Gunes Sensov, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan and Doga Zeynep Doguslu look like your typical gang of teenage girls.

But a typical squad they are not—for starters, Iscan is 21, despite her youthful visage. The ethereal newcomers are the stars of the Turkish indie hit film Mustang, in theaters November 20, and the unexpected belles of this year’s film festival circuit.

The debut feature of Deniz Gamze Erguven, who with her long brown hair fits right in as the older sibling of the pack, Mustang follows five sisters who become prisoners in their own home after getting caught playing “immorally” with some local boys. The sisterhood onscreen is hardly an act. “We had a real connection when we met each other for the first time. We were always laughing,” Akdogan says. “Afterwards, we are really like sisters, always texting and talking.”


As with her character onscreen, Akdogan is no stranger to trouble. “Two years ago there was unrest in Taksim [Square, in Istanbul], so my parents didn’t want me to go there,” she says. “So I told my mom I was going to watch a film at my cousin’s house. She kept calling me and I was like, ‘Mom, I’m trying to watch a movie!’” Akdogan’s master plan was later discovered after her mother found lemons and mint—typical aids in the recovery from getting tear gassed or pepper-sprayed—in her backpack.

As for her younger costars, they’re mum about any misbehavior, and maintain that their parents are nothing but supportive of their budding acting careers.

And though the girls are now reside separately between Paris, Amsterdam, and Turkey, their kin-like bond knows no geography. “We opened our hearts to each other,” Akdogan says.