Today, Unifrance and Film at Lincoln Center announced the winners of the 29th edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, with The Rapture by Iris Kaltenbäck receiving the third edition of the Best Emerging Filmmaker Award and The Animal Kingdom by Thomas Cailley winning the Audience Award.

Ticket sales for the 29th edition of the festival were strong again this year with packed screenings throughout the festival, and a total of 8,400 tickets issued, including 750 middle and high school students. Of the 21 feature films in this year’s lineup, more than half are directed by women and eight were made by first-time filmmakers.

The Rapture is Iris Kaltenbäck’s feature directorial debut starring Hafsia Herzi as Lydia, a young midwife who sublimates her emotional life into the pregnancy of her best friend. The film is a deceptively slow-burning portrait of a woman whose actions grow ever more desperate, even as she stubbornly persists in holding herself at a distance, remaining inscrutable both to herself and to the increasingly confounded loved ones caught up in her turmoil. The film was nominated for Best First Film and Best Actress at the 2024 César Awards. 

The Best Emerging Filmmaker Award is designed to bring attention to the unique cinematic point of view of emerging filmmakers and their interpretation of France’s new and diverse identities, and to encourage young people to attend the festival. Six New York City college students were invited to participate in the Best Emerging Filmmaker Student Jury, and to choose their favorite first or second feature from this year’s Rendez-Vous line-up. The students were chosen by the professors of Rendez-Vous’ partner universities, and include: Olivera Darden, Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University; Basile Guichard, Martin Scorsese Department of Cinema Studies, New York University; Kaveh Jalinous, Film & Media Studies/French & Francophone Studies, Columbia University; Katherine Prior, Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, Brooklyn College; Jasmine Shiffer, Film, CUNY Hunter College and Ferman Victor Siasat,  BFA Film, The School of Visual Arts.

The Animal Kingdom, Thomas Cailley’s long-awaited follow-up to Love at First Fight,  envisions a mysterious infection that selectively mutates the bodies of ordinary people into animal hybrids at unpredictable speeds in a darkly imaginative exploration of a human ecosystem undergoing inexplicable—but potentially liberating—transformation. The film was most recently nominated for 12 César Awards, including Best Director and Best Film. The Animal Kingdom, distributed by Magnolia Pictures, opens theatrically on Friday, March 15 in major U.S. markets. 

Special Mention for the Best Emerging Filmmaker Award was given to Erwan Le Duc’s No Love Lost, a stylistically bold and warmly eccentric examination of the ties that bind us. Special Mention for the Audience Award was given to Nathan Ambrosioni’s Toni, an affecting study of a formerly successful pop star and her five children adapting to a moment of collective transformation.

No Love Lost and The Rapture are both part of the tenth edition of Unifrance and Villa Albertine’s Young French Cinema Program which is designed to bring the works of emerging French filmmakers to audiences across the U.S. Both films are available for booking through Unifrance.