Brimming with nerve and defiant bravado, the banlieue-dwelling teenage heroine of debut director Houda Benyamina’s Divines is a sister under the skin to the similarly rebellious protagonist of Céline Sciamma’s 2014 LFF hit Girlhood.
Like her predecessor, Divines’ Dounia (Oulaya Amamra) won’t let the odds stacked against her hold her back. Living in Roma camp in a crime-ridden Paris suburb she is determined to better her hardscrabble lot by fair means or foul.
Restless and reckless, she graduates from shoplifting in a burka from a supermarket with her best friend Maimouna (Déborah Lukumuena) to far more perilous errands for swaggering local drug dealer Rebecca (Jisca Kalvanda). ‘Money, money, money’ is her goal, that and a halting romance with aspiring dancer Djigui (Kévin Mischel), but is she prepared to pay the price of success?
Divines isn’t as daring as its heroine – ultimately, it’s as much a morality tale as a 1930s Warner Brothers gangster film – but the energy and empathy on display here make Benyamina’s film entirely deserving of the 10-minute standing ovation it won at Cannes earlier this year.
Divines is showing today at 6.15pm at the Haymarket Cinema and also screens at BFI Southbank on Friday 7th October at 3.30pm and at the Ritzy on Tuesday 11th October at 6.30pm.