For the 24th edition of the annual Rendez-Vous with French Cinema festival, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and UniFrance held a special essay contest, sponsored by Frenchly, inviting young critics to write about a film of their choosing from the lineup. The Grand Prize winner, receiving a free trip to Paris and a free TV5MONDE subscription for one year, is Naomi Keenan O’Shea, who reviewed Virgil Vernier’s Sophia Antipolis.

Read her review at Film Comment and an excerpt below.

Sophia Antipolis, the latest film from French director Virgil Vernier, is named after the real-life technopole situated along the French Riviera. Reality and fiction mysteriously blur in this neo-noir-cum-political thriller, which follows the loosely interlaced narratives of three characters; a Vietnamese immigrant enticed by a New Age–style cult; a security guard newly recruited by a right-wing vanguard; and a teenage girl whose best friend is found burned beyond recognition in a derelict warehouse. Centered around the brutal murder of this young woman, the film also culls elements of science-fiction and documentary to produce a visual experience that feels at once uncanny and chillingly familiar. Vernier offers an acute and damning examination of our current crises that touches upon the particularities of the rise of French far-right nationalism, alongside the globalized environmental and embodied effects of capitalism.