My Name Is Happy review – Turkish talent show contestant survives femicide attempt
Born and raised in Ergani, a small town in southeast Turkey, Kurdish singer Mutlu Kaya had the opportunity of a lifetime when, at the age of 19, she advanced to the final round of a popular TV talent show. Blessed with a melodic voice, Mutlu (whose name means happiness) was on the cusp of fame when a jealous ex-boyfriend shot her in the head out of jealousy over her burgeoning career. Following the aftermath of the horrific incident, Nick Read and Ayse Toprak’s inspirational yet sobering documentary confronts the shocking prevalence of femicide in Turkey.
Examining the conservative attitudes that exist in Mutlu’s local community, My Name Is Happy shows how patriarchal oppression is systematically established as the norm. Mutlu, for example, comments that, unlike other families who live in the same conservative neighbourhood, her parents love their daughters and sons equally; still, one of her sisters had to undergo an unhappy arranged marriage. Even more heartbreakingly, while Mutlu endured the disabling effects of her murder attempt, which rendered the aspiring performer unable to stand, walk or sing as before, her elder sister Dilek was actually killed in cold blood by her boyfriend, an army soldier.
Mutlu’s assailant got 15 years in jail, while Dilek’s murderer was given a life sentence. Considering how male abusers in the country often get away with a slap-on-the-wrist punishment, the latter was a striking outcome. Despite these dark realities, the film remains a hopeful and optimistic watch. As Mutlu builds a new support network through her TikTok account, she is not alone on her path to recovery.
• My Name Is Happy is released on 10 February in UK cinemas.