Divines is a dance between two charming, trouble-making best friends. It’s a stunning teenage gangster movie where girls are tough and guys are pretty. Despite or perhaps because of the flip in gender norms, Divines is grounded in reality – so much so that I feel like I lived it.
I can easily name Divines one of my favorite movies in recent years.
A film like this would be delightfully surprising from the most experienced director, but is particularly mind blowing as Houda Benyamina’s (Ghetto Girl) first feature.
Dounia (Oulaya Amamra, Miriam) and Maimouna (Déborah Lukumuena) are hilarious Muslim girls living in Paris poverty. And when I say poverty, I mean that Dounia lives in a Roma camp where showering requires filling up tubs from a hose. The everyday financial struggles they face harden them but the struggles don’t temper their explosive spirit and humor.
Oulaya Amamra’s performance as Dounia is incredibly haunting while simultaneously absolutely charming. Her desire to change her situation leads Dounia to take the possibly fatal risk of stealing from a drug dealer and delivering the drugs to her idol Rebecca – the local drug boss who has money, hot men, and everything figured out.
Dounia and Maimouna imagine the life they will have when they reach the glorious but unspecific goal of “money money money!!”
As you might imagine, things go downhill from there. Antics turn to real danger.
The goody-two-shoes in me was completely against these girls getting mixed up in the drug world, but my inner teenage rebel cheered them on. There was a time when talking back to teachers and breaking rules were the funniest things I could imagine and Divines brought me back.
I laughed when Dounia and Maimouna thought things were funny and felt scared when they were in trouble and rooted for them when they stood up for themselves. I felt part of their world.
Their kind of fun is exemplified in an imaginary scene where they scope out hot guys and cruise with their Ray Bans on. There is a feeling of being swept up in their imagination as the camera feels locked to the hood of their invisible Ferrari while they roll around the ghetto describing the beautiful scenery.
Dounia and Maimouna’s story explores social issues like poverty, Muslim relations, and gender politics through the lens of family, friendship, and determination. There are so many tears and little answers to the problems that they face but it’s a hilarious, heartbreaking ride. I loved it.