• Golden Globe Awards

Divines (France)

Meet Dounia, a petite tough and brash mixed race teenager from the eastern Parisian suburbs. Restless, reckless and rebellious, she is obsessed with making of lot of money, the only way out of her dreary life in the projects and a gloomy future. With her plump and good-humored BFF Maimouna, she is determined to achieve that goal, by any means necessary, even if it means working for the ruthless neighborhood dealer Rebecca, a cunning and abrasive loudmouth with a taste for boy-toys. Will it be the ticket to a better tomorrow for the exuberant girlfriends?Defiant and gutsy, fueled with a contagious lust for life , they embark full speed ahead on a dangerous roller coaster ride with unexpected hurdles, confronted in the end to something bigger than they had never bargained for.Divines is the high-voltage debut by Franco-Moroccan director Houda Benyamina who won the Camera d’Or for best first film last May at the Cannes film festival where it got a ten minutes standing ovation at the first screening. Part coming of age story, part feminist and sociological manifesto, it is a provoking and often riveting female buddy thriller that dares to play with the stereotypes of the genre in a knock-out style. Pulsating with bursts of violence and lyrical and poetic moments, enhanced by a soundtrack that features rap and hip hop but also Haendel and Mozart as well as Arabic melodies.Comparisons have already been made with two recent similarly themed films, like Geraldine Nakhache and Hervé Mimran 2010 All That Glitters and Céline Sciamma 2014 Girlhood. But I did not do a girls in the hood movie”, Benyamina insists. “My film is about love and friendship.”  The 35 years old self-taught director partly based Dounia on herself. ‘She resembles me when I was 14 to 16 . I was humiliated, left at the edge of society. I was a violent teenager and I did a lot of crazy things but I found a way channel  my anger and finally express myself with cinema without having to go to the extremes like her.”She credits Pasolini’s Medea for changing her life. “I realized then that cinema is the most complete form of art, she recalls. It’s a reconciliation between painting, music and theater and I wanted to do what he was doing.” She had quite an eclectic mix of inspirations for Divines, mentioning in the same breath Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time In America, Spike Lee, Muhammad Ali and Bertrand Blier ‘s 1974 Going Places. Another element that fed her writing was the November 2005 violent riots that happened in the Paris banlieue and the unrests that followed. It helped her shape the tragic and bittersweet ending. My creative motor is fuelled by the feeling of injustice and unfairness, just like my characters. I always felt the urge to fight it and be behind a camera to give a different voice to women. For me it is also important to feminize courage.” As the firecracker with attitude, Dounia is played with visceral pugnacity by Oulaya Amanra, the director’s little sister, in a mesmerizing performance. Dialogues are often punchy and raunchy and everyone who has seen the film will never forget such memorable one liner as “You’ve got pussy. I dig it.” Indeed, Divines is a timely movie with balls.