French Film Review: Divertimento

DivertimentoDivertimento is based on the true story of Zahia Ziouani (wonderfully acted by Oulaya Amamra), a woman from the working-class suburbs of Paris who becomes one of France’s four percent of female conductors.

Directed by Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, the film starts with Zahia as a child entranced as a symphony orchestra on television performs Ravel’s Bolero, her hand gently and gracefully moving in time with the beat. Zahia dreams of becoming a conductor while Fettouma plays the celloDivertimentoFast-forward and she and her twin sister Fettouma (Lina El Arabi) are attending Racine, a music school in Paris, where the rich privileged students make fun of them and in particular, disrupt Zahia’s efforts to become a conductor. But even the administration is not interested in developing female conductors, especially from the suburbs – what connections does her family have?

So her sister suggests she form her own orchestra. She doesn’t (yet), but the idea is in her head. Zahia is ‘discovered’ when the maestro whom she saw conduct on TV all those years ago is giving a talk at the school and invites her to join his private class. The film takes a different turn, but even then there are still obstacles for her.

I’m not a huge fan of classical music, but Divertimento has given me a new appreciation and insight into the music, as well as orchestras and conducting.

This is a wonderful, heartwarming, and uplifting film, and the two leads are so engaging – well worth your time at this year’s festival.

Here you can read more about this amazing woman — and in French:
And here In English & French – read our interview with Zahia-Ziouani

Image credits: Le Paste Distribution


About the Contributor

Cynthia Karena

I am a freelance journalist, TV researcher and media trainer based in Melbourne. I write about tech, film, sustainability and travel among other things - and of course, all things French for You can find me on Twitter and Instagram

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