Directed by: Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar
Written by: Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, Clara Bourreau
Starring: Oulaya Amamra, Lina El Arabi, Niels Arestrup, Zinedine Soualem, Nadia Kaci, Laurent Cirade
Released: June 20, 2024
Grade: B


Given it’s such a niche job, it’s remarkable that two movies about music conductors have been nominated at the Academy Awards for best picture in the last two years.  Tár featured a brilliant lead performance from Australian Cate Blanchett, while Maestro saw writer-director Bradley Cooper step into the shoes on the ionic Leonard Bernstein.  Both films, worth checking out if you’ve haven’t already, highlighted the creative highs and ego-driven lows that can exist within the profession.

Divertimento hasn’t received the same award-winning acclaim but for those interested in feel-good true story, it will have serious appeal.  It tells the true story of Zahia Ziouani, a French-Algerian woman from a modest background who, guided by her parents, developed a love for classical music as a teenager.  She yearned to be an orchestra conductor, but many scoffed at her ambitious because the industry was dominated by those who were old and male.

There’s a happy end to this story but with a few bumps along the way.  I won’t say too much more and let audiences enjoy this film.  It’s a little over-dramatized in places but writer-director Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar does a nice job in capturing Ziouani’s talent, passion, and ambition.  Lead actor Oulaya Amamra had no prior classical music training prior to making the film but, in being coached by the real Ziouani during the shoot, she’s created a character who is convincing and likeable.  You really do want her to succeed.

Divertimento premiered in Australia back in March as part of the French Film Festival and I was fortunate to host a Q&A session with Zahia Ziouani and her cellist-playing sister, Fettouma, as part of the program.  In being kind, modest, and full of wonderful anecdotes, they’ve me a greater appreciation of the movie and their inspiring upbringing.  They couldn’t give too much away but they will have a role to play in the cultural activities connected with the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

For those who missed Divertimento at the French Film Festival, it’s now getting a release in select cinemas across the country.  If you’re after a nice tale with great young actors and weighty music, it’s an ideal choice.