Opening 6 Apr 2023
Neneh (Oumy Bruni Garrel) may be young—12 to be exact—yet she knows she wants to be the prima donna superstar and is not about to be put off. Neneh’s dad (Steve Tientcheu), easygoing and supportive with their youngest, drives her to the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet School’s tryouts. Once there he realizes just how many girls share Neneh’s dream. Neneh demonstrates a brazen confidence; during the decision-making process the little Black girl is scrutinized before getting a coveted spot. Fred convinces Martine (Aïssa Maïga) their daughter deserves a chance at her dream. Once settled in, whereas Neneh idolizes the one-time prima ballerina, Mme Marianne Belage’s (Maïwenn), the school’s director, distaste for Neneh is clear before too long. Among the small corps of learners, it is Olympe (Olympe Robelet Dassonville) that appreciates Neneh’s unorthodox ways and direct approach most, while a few girls begin the not-so-gentle art of bullying. Neneh pertinaciously works harder and ignores slights, and then amidst a crisis she withdraws yet does not stop dancing. Her family and friends rally round. Eventually, the situation evolves into a day of reckoning and a time for all seasons.
Director Ramzi Ben Sliman’s screenplay should appeal to families, ballet buffs and youngsters from 6-years. It deals with intimidation, racial prejudices and bullying, and parental involvement, understanding and trust. The dance film premise, while teetering on banality in its overuse, works here for creating atmosphere, and close proximities and their effect on individuals within group settings. Antony Diaz’s cinematography, Basile Belkhiri editing, and Jean-Bohémond Leguay’s music gyrate and moves with the action. This nice feel-good movie demonstrates dreams are worth working for while staying open to life’s surprises. (Marinell Haegelin)