Meet the new faces of French cinema. They made a name for themselves at major international festivals in 2023 and are headed to screens around the world in 2024.
Unifrance’s 10 to Watch have been selected for the excellence of their work by international journalists Rebecca Leffler (Screen International), Fabien Lemercier (Cineuropa), Elsa Keslassy (Variety), Christine Masson (France Inter), and Jordan Mintzer (The Hollywood Reporter). The talents epitomise a reinvigoration of French cinema through the freedom and singularity of their artistic choices, their ambition, their audacity, and their unique perspectives of the world.
Unifrance is proud to honour this new generation of directors and actors, who contribute so fully to the effervescence of France’s film and TV industry and enhance the distribution of their work beyond France’s borders.
Sofia Alaoui, writer, director
French-Moroccan director and screenwriter Sofia Alaoui broke onto the scene with her short film So What If The Goats Die, which won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020 and the César for best short fiction film in 2021. Her debut feature, Animalia, a science-fiction film with a political slant, premiered at Sundance in 2023 where it was awarded the special jury prize. Alaoui is now working on a detective series called Let The Earth Burn and another project in development for a streaming platform. At the same time, she is preparing two feature film projects: Tarfaya, set in the Moroccan desert, and her first English-language film, adapted from a short story.
Suzy Bemba, actor
Suzy Bemba broke out with her role as young ballerina Flora alongside Ariane Labed in the spellbinding drama L’Opéra, a series created by Cécile Ducrocq and Benjamin Adam. In 2023, she followed with a remarkable performance as Toinette in Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. She played the lead role in Catherine Corsini’s Homecoming, presented in Competition at Cannes in 2023, and starred, alongside Cynthia Erivo, in Anthony Chen’s Drift, which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2023. She will represent France in the European Shooting Stars at the Berlin Film Festival in 2024.
Céleste Brunnquell, actor
Céleste Brunnquell began acting at the age of 11. In 2018, Sarah Suco offered her the lead role in her debut feature The Dazzled. Her deeply moving performance earned her an acting award at the Sarlat Film Festival and a nomination for the César for most promising actress. After a role in Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s hit series In Treatment in 2021, she headed back to film for Sébastien Marnier’s The Origin Of Evil and Jeanne Aslan and Paul Saintillan’s debut feature Spare Keys, selected for the San Sebastian Film Festival. In 2023, she starred in Erwan Le Duc’s No Love Lost, presented at Critics’ Week (La Semaine de la Critique). She stars in upcoming features Céline Rouzet’s debut film For Night Will Come, Antoine Raimbault’s Une Affaire De Principe, and Jessica Palud’s Maria.
Stéphan Castang, writer, director, actor
Stéphan Castang comes from the world of theatre and has shared the stage with Marion Guerrero, Benoît Lambert, Ivan Grinberg, and Thomas Poulard. He has also worked with the L’Artifice theatre company, both as an actor and playwright (Lettres d’amour de 0 à 10, which received the Molière award for best show for young audiences in 2005). He is also the author of a number of plays: Boule De Gomme, Le Défilé De César, Une Divine Tragédie (co-written with Sacha Wolff). He has written and directed several short films, including Berlin 2012’s French Kids, Pantheon Discount, that earned prizes at several festivals including Clermont-Ferrand, Thessaloniki and Tübingen/Stuttgart, and Finale that won awards at Clermont-Ferrand, Trouville, and Brussels. Castang won the 2021 Gan Foundation for Cinema award and most recently presented his feature directorial debut Vincent Must Die at Critics’ Week (La Semaine de la Critique) in Cannes in 2023.
Stefan Crepon, actor
Stefan Crepon trained at the Conservatoire National Supérieur d’Art Dramatique and made his first film appearance in 2018 in Cédric Kahn’s The Prayer. But it was his role in seasons four and five of The Bureau, created by Éric Rochant, that propelled his career off the ground. He went on to appear in Philippe Garrel’s The Salt Of Tears, Thomas Kruithof’s Promises, and three episodes of the Lupin series, created by François Uzan and Georges Kay, with Omar Sy in the title role. In 2022, Crepon’s role in François Ozon’s Peter von Kant earned him a César nomination for most promising actor. He will soon be seen in Making Of by Cédric Kahn, in which he stars alongside Souheila Yacoub, Jonathan Cohen, and Denis Podalydès, as well as in À La Hauteur, by Delphine and Muriel Coulin, with Benjamin Voisin and Vincent Lindon.
Jean-Baptiste Durand, director, writer
A former honours student of the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Montpellier, Jean-Baptiste Durand first became interested in painting and drawing, before moving into feature film directing. After graduating, he worked as a film crew member, then directed a number of music videos and documentaries, and had several short films selected and awarded at film festivals. Warmly received by audiences and critics alike, his debut feature Junkyard Dog, is nominated for best first feature at the 2024 Lumiere Awards after earning its director the very first Pierre Chevalier Award, presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2023. Durand is now working on L’Homme Qui Avait Peur Des Femmes. He will also star in Alain Guiraudie’s next film.
Iris Kaltenbäck, director, writer
Iris Kaltenbäck grew up in France with a French mother, Austrian father and American half-brother. After studying law and philosophy, she joined the screenplay department at the Fémis film school and assisted director Declan Donnellan at Théâtre Les Gémeaux (Scène nationale). In 2015, she directed her first short, A Visit From The Stork, winner of the next generation international audience award at the Brussels Short Film Festival. Her first feature, The Rapture, was selected for Critics’ Week (La Semaine de la Critique) in 2023, where it received the SACD prize. Presented at numerous international festivals (Zürich, Ghent, Morelia, São Paolo, Hamburg, among others), it won several awards, including the special jury prize in Turin. The Rapture has been well-received in France where it won the country’s prestigious Louis-Delluc Prize for best first feature.
Raphaël Quenard, actor
After beginning his career in theatre and short films, Raphaël Quenard made his mark in 2018 in the series HP , created by Angela Soupe. He then went on to act in feature films, notably in Quentin Dupieux’s Mandibles before a breakout role in Igor Gotesman’s series Family Business . He went on to collaborate with Emma Benestan (Hard Shell, Soft Shell) and Michel Hazanavicius (Final Cut), among others. In 2023, he appeared in 11 productions, and made the jump to leading roles, notably in Jean-Baptiste Durand’s Junkyard Dog, Quentin Dupieux’s Yannick, Jérémie Rozan’s Gold Brick, and Hugo Benamozig and David Caviglioli’s Sentinelle. He next stars in Christine Paillard and Chad Chenouga’s Pourquoi Tu Souris?, Michaël Dichter’s The Fantastic Three and Gilles Lellouche’s L’Amour Ouf.
Swiss-born Souheila Yacoub first made a name for herself as an Olympic gymnast before embarking on an acting career. She has worked with Rebecca Zlotowski (Savages), Philippe Garrel (The Salt Of Tears), Alice Zeniter and Benoît Volnais (Before We Collapse), Cédric Klapisch (Rise), and Cédric Kahn (Making Of). Her outstanding performances in Gaspar Noé’s Climax and Anaïs Volpé’s The Braves earned her a nomination for the César Academy’s Revelations list. In early 2024 she will be seen in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two, alongside Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya. Next up for Yacoub is Aude Léa Rapin’s Planète B with Adèle Exarchopoulos and Noémie Merlant’s The Balconettes. She also stars in season two of the mini-series No Man’s Land.
Sofiane Zermani began his musical career in 2007, where he became a successful rapper. A versatile artist, he took his first steps into the world of theatre in 2018 in The Great Gatsby, initially adapted for radio, then on stage. That same year he appeared in David Oelhoffen’s Close Enemies and then in the series Savages, created by Rebecca Zlotowski and Sabri Louatah in 2019. He has pursued his career on the small screen in series Algiers Confidential, from Frédéric Jardin and Off Season from Pierre Monnard alongside Marina Hands. In 2023, Zermani starred in feature films Spirit Of Ecstasy, directed by Héléna Klotz and Mehdi Fikri’s After The Fire. He next stars in Hassan Guerrar’s Barbès d’Or and Manele Labidi’s Queen Mom.