Wow! What I expected to be a medicare classic sentimental a girl-from-the-ghetto story, turned up to be an extraordinary experience of incredibly acted, beautifully complex, unconventionally artistic movie. If this is the director's first feature movie, I am genuinely looking for next one.
The story is about a 15-year-old Muslim girl called Dounia and her black friend Maimouna that both grow up in a poor migrant superb of Paris.They have both different characters and family situation, but they both share their insecurities and hopes with each other openly and you can feel the strength of their influence on each other even when it seems like they paths split.
They are both clueless teenage girls, that feel like they deserve more in life than what they were given by their parents or society. And it's Dounia that is more willing to risk and fight for that better future. The relationship dynamic is fascinating to watch and very well acted. There is also interesting and potentially romantic (?) relationship between Dounia and a guy who is a dancer, and whose artistic aspirations in dancing is confusing her (and her own value system). And what's more, her friend Maimonua doesn't seem to be so impressed with him as Dounia, so she acts very ambiguously toward him and even sees him as weak, even though she is not sure that what she sees as a weakness is actually a weakness after all. This split between her contradictory emotions is amazingly well acted (in my opinion by a rising star) young actress Oulaya Amamra.
The ghetto, lack of meaning, lack of guidance and respected adult authorities, lack of social (economic) opportunities and feeling of being an alien in someone else's society is the true antagonist of the story.
It drives Dounia (and Maimonua follows her in admiration) to make naive and bad choices, but at the same time you feel something very authentic and even admirable in her drive to find the most accessible way out of her frustrating situation. As there seems to be no adult that understands her feelings, she relies on her best friend Maimonua feedback and evaluation of her. But they both can only know, what they can learn from their surrounding culture and significant adults around themselves - who also seem clueless and desperate, so why should Dounia trust them at all? She has an immature drunk mother and no father. So when she drops out of school and start selling drugs, the world looks like it belongs to her (and her best friend), unable to see inevitable consequences of the path she puts herself and their friendship in.
And as the movie progress, you ask yourself how much she can get away with and will she finally learn harsh life lessons on her own or will the unusual relationship with the dancer help her to see beyond distorted values she desperately tries to believe in?
It is a matter of taste, I guess, but a Golden globe nomination, 10 minutes standing ovation and subsequent win at Cannes festival is, in my opinion, well deserved. Besides I read that the "self-thought" director Houda Benyamina herself grew up in the type of suburb she captures in this movie, so you can't accuse her of over-dramatization or stereotyping.
I've seen A Man called Ove (2016) and Toni Erdmann (2016) which are both nominated for 2017 Oscars for foreign movies, but I think Divines deserves it more. I personally, put Divines to my Top 2016 list of movies.
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