Houda Benyamina is a French writer/director/actress/all-around amazing woman. She was born into a Moroccan family, in Viry-Châtillon in 1980. She remembers her childhood fondly, recalling her middle school experience as the “best years of her life.” She credits her neighborhood for “sharpening her tongue.” It was then and there, in the southern suburbs of Paris, that she learned about the “art of the joke,” “the poetry of vulgarity.”
Her childhood in the rearview mirror, Houda set off with dreams of acting, studying at the École Régionale d’Acteurs de Cannes (ERAC), as well as the Minsk Academy, the Ontological Theater, and the Actors Studio. At the end of it all, with a considerable educational roster under her belt and a desire to “express [herself] differently,” Benyamina shifted behind the camera, producing nine short films to dazzling reception.
The talent of using her voice as a carefully-poised tool has remained an asset for her into adult life, undoubtedly contributing towards the success of Divines, which earned recognition at both the César Awards and the Cannes Film Festival for Best First Feature Film.
Her desire to write and direct wasn’t so much spurned by any preceding film or filmmaker in particular, but rather, an inner rage that she longed to verbalize and present to an audience. It was the 2005 riots, which took place in the banlieues of Paris and gave rise to more neglect and poverty that lit the fire within her, and served as a direct inspiration for Divines.
Although she has stated that her female-led feature isn’t outright a “feminist story,” Benyamina does have every faith that “the 21st century is female.” In accepting her Caméra d’Or, she made her faith in her fellow woman unmistakably known — capping her speech with a cry of “Les femmes ! Les femmes !” to thunderous applause.
Houda Benyamina, in her drive and passion, serves as an immense inspiration for filmmakers looking to find their footing – especially, ladies behind the lens. This week, Houda, we highlight you. And every other week, we continue to admire you as well.