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Critical / “entertainment” (2023) by Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar


In entertainment, Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar tells the true story of conductor Zahia Ziouani in the guise of actress Oulaya Amamra. Film reviews and reviews.


At 17, Zahia Ziouani (Oulaya Amamra) dreams of becoming a conductor. Her twin sister, Fettouma, a professional cellist. Rocked since their earliest childhood by classical symphonic music, they in turn wish to make it accessible to all and in all territories. So how can you achieve such ambitious dreams in 1995 when you are a woman of Algerian origin and come from Seine-Saint-Denis? With determination, passion, courage and above all the incredible project of creating their own orchestra: Divertimento.

entertainment : the issue of social marginalization

While the question of the social marginalization of individuals placed on the periphery of places of life continues to question the films of Marie-Castille Mention-Schaarthe filmmaker and screenwriter naturally responds in the affirmative to the project presented to her to bring to the screen the true story of Zahia Ziouani, one of the few female conductors in a profession that only includes 4% of women in France and 6% in the world today. This percentage is thus the indicator of a real discrimination that the cinema can allow itself to denounce and bring to light in order to develop the civic conscience of the public. The stake of the biopic is here more to open a reflection on a social context than to put forward an American success story.

To divert the traps of biopic getting lost in an individualistic ideology, the protagonist remains permanently in contact with her sister, her family and is never isolated in her steps with a social framework which is never erased on the screen. It is also an ethic of the conductor’s responsibility that is highlighted here where her role can only have meaning in communion with the instrumentalists. Thus, rather than excluding disruptive sexist and classicist elements among the young students who make up her orchestra, the heroine remains permanently in an inclusive approach and gradually imposes herself on each and every one of them succeeding in being respected by his openness, his benevolence, his talent, his inventiveness and his self-confidence which are essential in the long term.

divertimento movie review (2)

A musical movie

Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar once again avoids the shortcomings of the commissioned film by appropriating it intimately and transforming it into a music movie. The sequences follow one another from then on through choreographies which emanate as much from the movements of the bodies of the musicians and of the said conductor crossed by the emotion of the musical creation as from the surrounding elements of the townspeople touched by the poetic grace of the music. This choice of staging makes it possible to highlight artistic expression in order to transcend an iniquitous social reality where equal opportunities are not the same on either side of the Paris ring road.

The performers are captured in a choral movement even if some of them stand out more particularly. The actresses Oulaya Amamra and Lina El Arabi are fully invested in their respective roles and give full credibility to the biographical approach to this true story. It’s a pity that the role of Lina El Arabi too often remains secondary with little speaking, while the solidarity of the two sisters as a force that innervates their determination could thus have been more of a fertile narrative source.

The subject defended in the story is also staged behind the camera with the presence of Naomi Amarger as a director of photography for her first fiction feature film which captures both musical abstraction in a choreography of the senses and light as general chromatic composition.

This article is brought to you by columnist Cédric Lépine.

Learn more:

  • Release date France: 01/25/2022
  • Distribution France: The pact

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