France's 'Divines' makes bid for best foreign language film at Golden Globes
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Sunday’s Golden Globes award ceremony will be a big moment for French director Houda Benyamina, whose first feature film, “Divines”, is competing for best foreign language film.
Billed as the most raucous event in the showbiz calendar, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's annual awards ceremony is a draw for filmmakers and actors looking to create some buzz ahead of February's Academy Awards.
Benyamina’s film, which scooped up the coveted Caméra d’Or (Golden Camera) award at the Cannes Film Festival last year, is up against two other French films "Elle" and "The Salesman" as well as Maren Ade's German-Austrian dramedy "Toni Erdmann" and Chile’s “Neruda”.
“When I think about where I started out, just being here today […] is amazing,” the filmmaker, who grew up in a working-class suburb of Paris told AFP.
"It was a project that was complicated to fund, and to be here today on American soil, it's a great reward for the whole team that had faith, a belief in this project, that is a girl's dream about making it to the top," she added.
“Divines” tells the story of Dounia, a young woman who lives in a Roma camp with her mother. She and her best friend try everything to pull themselves out of their difficult surroundings. Dounia is played by Benyamina’s sister, Oulaya Amamra. Dounia falls in love with a dancer, secretly watching him rehearse for hours.
With ‘Divines’, Benyamina aims to combat some of the stereotypes usually applied to “films de banlieue” movies about France’s working-class suburbs.
“When you write a film like ‘Divines’, everyone treats it like the umpteenth film de banlieue,” Benyamina told AFP. “But the umpteenth film about the middle class doesn’t bother anyone”.
Benyamina sees "Divines" above all as “a great story of friendship, a movie about the right to exist, and about the sacred.”
Since the film “Mustang”, from Franco-Turkish director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, was nominated for Best Foreign Language film in last year’s Academy Awards, Benyamina is hoping Hollywood has an appetite for more French stories of diversity.
But she’s not waiting around for French producers to follow her lead. Instead, she founded 1000 Visages (1000 Faces), a non-profit aimed at developing access to culture in poor neighbourhoods.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)