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Emma Benestan: The French Director Debuts Her Feminist Camargue Bull-Running Thriller ‘Animale’ In Cannes’ Critics’ Week — Ones To Watch

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The anarchic spirit of Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winner Titane lives on in Emma Benestan’s Critics Week closer Animale, the genre-busting debut of a director who cites Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark, and the naturalist films of Chloé Zhao as influences.

More surprisingly, she also credits Abdellatif Kechiche, since her first break was as assistant editor on his 2013 Palme d’Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Colour.

Benestan — who would later take a full-blown editor credit on his 2017 feature Mektoub, My Love — was then finishing her studies at France’s prestigious La Fémis film school, but observing Kechiche’s directorial style, and witnessing his penchant for mixing professional and amateur actors, was an education in itself. “It’s the way he marries professionals and amateurs that gives his films a certain spontaneity,” she explains. “I’d been taught the director had to control everything, but directing isn’t only about control.

I learned that from Abdel — directing is also about letting things happen.”  Set against the bull-fighting scene of the Camargue region in southern France, Animale stars Divines breakout Oulaya Amamra as Nejma, a 22-year-old woman who is trying to make her way in the male-dominated world of bullfighting.

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