The daughter of film-maker Luis Puenzo has emerged as an exciting international talent with Cannes favourite XXY. Diego Batlle reports.

A renowned novelist and screenwriter in Argentina, Lucia Puenzo is enjoying an exciting 2007 with a new book recently published and her first feature, XXY, selected for Cannes' Critics Week. The 31-year-old artist is not new to film, having written screenplays and directed a slew of short films, documentaries and TV mini-series.

Puenzo is also part of a family devoted to movies. Her father, Luis Puenzo, is the only Argentinian to win the foreign language Oscar with The Official Story in 1985. Her brothers, Nicolas and Esteban, are also well-known film-makers.

'I grew up on my dad's film sets and he always worked with family in a very nice atmosphere,' says Lucia, who also wrote her father's latest effort The Whore And The Whale (La Puta Y La Ballena), and her husband Sergio Bizzio's Smoke (Humo), which is still unreleased. She also has three novels under her belt. 'I write every single day because if not, I feel empty,' she explains.

For her directorial debut, Puenzo adapted a coming-of-age tale by her husband about a 15-year-old teenager burdened by the fact she was born with a gender ambiguity. She has been raised a girl and taken hormone drugs to suppress any male characteristics.

'XXY is the story of the brutal transforming moment when an intersexual teenager comes to terms with her identity, her first sexual encounter, her first confusing, heart-rending crush and the commotion this brings into her and her family's life,' explains Puenzo.

The film won good notices at Cannes for Puenzo's sensitive handling of the subject and ability to elicit very human and affecting performances from her cast. Ines Efron is a real talent to watch, playing the young girl alongside Argentina's biggest marquee name, Ricardo Darin, who plays her father.

The $1.2m Argentinian-Spanish-French co-production between Luis Puenzo's Historias Cinematograficas, Wanda Films and Pyramide Productions received the support of Cannes' Cinefondation (Lucia was selected for the prestigious Residence to finish the screenplay), France's Fonds Sud, Argentina's Incaa and Spain's Icaa.

'It took me 18 months to finance the film and it would have been impossible to attract European co-producers without the support of Cannes' Cinefondation,' says Puenzo.

Puenzo is now working on a feature version of her novel The Fish Boy (El Nino Pez).