“When I was told I’d been picked, I was really shocked,” said Fathia Youssouf, aged 12, when she got the phone call announcing she had just got the role. And not just in any film, but the latest project by Maimouna Doucouré, a French-Senegalese director who’d been nominated for a Cesar for her short film Maman(s) in 2015. The filmmaker chose the young girl from 700 candidates to play Amy, the main character in Cuties, a feature film inspired by her own story, that of a pre-teen caught between the weight of tradition and a visceral need for freedom. While the film highlights the striking transformation of the passage from childhood to adolescence, young Fathia's pure, embellishing purity shatters the screen.
Cuties, which has proved controversial in the United States, has already won Best Director Award at the Sundance Film Festival, and also received a Special Mention from the International Jury in Berlin. In France, it has been nominated in every category at the 2021 Césars.
Born in Brest in 2006, Fathia Youssouf hadn't taken a single drama lesson before being cast. Dreaming of becoming a journalist, the young girl never even imagined that she would star in a film. However, her instinctive acting and her innate sense of emotion has put her name among the nominations for Most Promising Young Actress César of 2021. The performance of the young girl, who came across the casting announcement by complete chance on Facebook, has also landed her on the New York Times list of the 20 best performers in the world, alongside major actresses such as Sophia Loren and Viola Davis. Now at 14 years old, she says she wants to continue making films, just as long as she likes the offers.