This time last year Hafsia Herzi's name was on the lips of just about every French casting director. A year on and she has the rest of the world talking.
Proving that her electric performance in Couscous was not just a one-off, Herzi went on to win the best actress award at the Dubai International Film Festival for Francaise, directed by Souad El-Bouhati, in which she plays a North African girl who is forced to return to her father's farm in Morocco. She also starred in Abbas Fahdel's war drama Dawn Of The World, as the wife of a young soldier, and alongside Jean-Paul Belmondo in Francis Huster's One Man And His Dog (Un Homme Et Son Chien).
There is no sign of things slowing down for the 22-year-old Marseilles- born actress, who has no formal training. She stars in Alain Guiraudie's quirky love story Le Roi De L'Evasion as a girl who falls in love with a gay man and has just finished shooting Raja Amari's Tunisian drama Anonymes, in which she takes the lead role. She is also set to star as a young Iraqi woman in Fariborz Kamkari's romantic drama The Flowers Of Kirkuk, set in Kurdistan during Saddam Hussein's rule.
With five awards under her belt already, including the prestigious Marcello Mastroianni award at Venice, and the most promising actress award at the Cesars (both for Couscous), Herzi is very much in demand. She may have stuck to her French and North African roots with her film choices so far, but how long before Hollywood comes calling'
Veronica Echegui is another stand-out from last year's European Stars of Tomorrow. Since being plucked from obscurity by Bigas Luna to star in his 2006 film Yo Soy La Juani (for which she gained a Goya nomination), Echegui has starred in a host of local films, including Belen Macias's prison drama My Prison Yard, Antonio Hernandez's satire The Lesser Evil, and Basque family drama La Casa De Mi Padre, directed by Gorka Merchan. She has since been cast as the lead in UK comedy Bunny And The Bull, the directorial debut of writer-director Paul King, whose credits include UK television comedy The Mighty Boosh. Bunny And The Bull is produced by Mark Herbert, Mary Burke and Robin Gutch for Warp X Films. Now in post, the comedy road movie is set entirely in an apartment and sees Echegui starring alongside UK actors Edward Hogg and Simon Farnaby.
'Veronica just took our breath away when she came in to play Eloisa - it was just one of those 'click' moments,' says Gutch. 'And that feeling never went away for the whole shoot which was her first English-language production. Now we are cutting the film she is proving herself a comedy natural.'
Echegui will be back on her home turf for her next project, Salvador Calvo's El Otro Viaje, which is in pre-production.
Meanwhile, Abdel Raouf Dafri is fast becoming the French screenwriter of the moment. With two features to his name, Public Enemy Number One: Part 1 and Public Enemy Number One: Part 2, both directed by Jean-Francois Richet, Dafri's profile looks set to rise with the hotly anticipated Jacques Audiard film, Un Prophete, due to be unveiled at Cannes. Written by Dafri, it features Tahar Rahim, one of this year's Stars of Tomorrow, in the lead role.