One of the three female directors competing at Cannes Film Festival, French thesp-turned-helmer Nicole Garcia is no stranger to the Croisette. Instinctive and passionate, yet self-conscious, Garcia, who was born in Algeria, has earned great critical acclaim both an actress and a filmmaker. Her first short, “15 Aout,” competed at Cannes, and so did “The Adversary” which Daniel Auteuil playing a man who murders his family, and “According to Charlie” with Jean-Pierre Bacri and Vincent Lindon. Her latest film, “From the Land of the Moon” stars Marion Cotillard and is adapted from Milena Agus’ Italian novella, “Mal de Pierres,” about a young woman’s romances from 1943 until the mid-’60s.

Variety: The producer “From the Land of the Moon,” Alain Attal, said it was a passion project for you. Why was this project so close to your heart?

It’s true that it’s a passion project. I discovered the book in airport shop 7 or 8 years and I read it entirely during a flight between Paris and Marseille. As soon as I landed, I called Alain Attal and asked him to check if the rights were still available. I could sense it would make a wonderful film about the fate of an extraordinary woman who lived in the farming bourgeoisie of the 1950’s and is obsessed par her desire to discover passion. She has the craziness of artists and an imagination which saves her. It took me a long time to do it because the adaptation was very complicated, but all those years this project kept haunting me.”

Why did you cast Marion Cotillard for this part?

I have hunches when it comes to casting actors for certain characters and I just knew it was for her when we crossed paths just after I bought the rights to the book. There is something mystic about her and she has a tremendous strength which can make her seem possessed like her character in “From the Land of The Moon.”

Do you consider “From the Land of The Moon” a feminist movie?

It’s not a hardcore feminist movie but through Marion’s character, it’s definitely a film that promotes freedom and women empowerment in a way that’s both universal and contemporary, even if it’s a period movie.

I heard Thierry Fremaux had to convince you to show the film in competition. Why is that?

We were reluctant to the idea of showing in competition at Cannes. We wondered if it was worth taking that risk. But eventually we decided to go for it. I’s a generous film carried by wonderful actors and a female heroine who embodies everything there is to love in a woman.
Thierry Fremaux convinced me when he said “It’s a contemporary film about a modern woman trapped in the middle of the last century.”

What do you want to do next?

I’d like to direct another film. This time around it will be a thriller based on an original script. But I’ll be back into acting. Being an actress has always been one of my greatest strengths as a director because it helps me to work closely and intuitively with other actors.