Camille Degeye’s feature debut “Sphinx” won the Next Step Award as part of the program launched by Cannes’ Critics’ Week to help the directors of the 10 shorts which played during the last edition make their feature debut.

Degeye, who developed the script of “Sphinx” during the sixth session of Next Step in December, received the €5000 cash ($5616) prize from a jury comprising Michèle Halberstadt, co-founder of distribution banner ARP, Bérénice Vincent, co-founder of sales outfit Totem Films and Mathieu Robinet, a French distributor.

Along with receiving the cash prize, Degeve will also be invited to next year’s Cannes festival to promote her project. “Sphinx,” produced by Société Acéphale, was co-written by the journalist Luc Chessel. It tells the story of Eden, a young medical intern who stars working as a nurse for a trendy Parisian nightclub and falls in love with the Nidhal, a mysterious figure of Paris’s queer and underground world.

“We created this Next Step Award last year and we’re happy to have Camille Degeye win this prize because she’s a self-made filmmaker who’s produced her films outside of the usual circuit — as such, ‘Sphinx’ is a truly singular film, more so than many French movies,” said Rémi Bonhomme, who launched the Next Step Program six years ago.

Meanwhile, the 10 filmmakers of this year’s programme will be invited in December to take part in the Next Step workshop. Launched in 2014 by Rémi Bonhomme, the Next Step program has supported 55 filmmakers from 29 different countries with the script writing, production, distribution and music score of their feature debuts.

Bonhomme, who is leaving Critics’ Week and Next Step after this upcoming edition to take the helm of the Marrakech Film Festival, pointed the strong track record of projects that have been developed at the workshop, for instance Erwan Le Duc’s critically acclaimed “The Bare Necessity” (“Perdrix”).

Bonhomme also said that at least three movies developed at last year’s workshop will be making their premiere at key festivals, such as Cannes, Venice and Locarno with well-seasoned, topnotch partners like Didar Domheri (“Girls of the Sun”). These pics are “Wherever The Weather is Fine” directed by Carlo Francisco Manatad and co-produced by France’s Vincent Wang, exploring faith in the aftermath of a typhoon which devastated the Philippines; “Rio Doce” by Fellipe Fernandes, the former first assistant of Kleber Mendonça Filho, and co-produced by Le Bureau; and “Memory House,” a film set in contemporary Brazil directed by Joao Paulo Miranda and produced by Dohmeri. “Memory House” just received the Cannes 2020 label.

Five more Next Step alumnus will soon go into production: “The Woodcutter Story,” a dark comedy by Finnish helmer Mikko Myllylahti who won last year’s Next Step award; “Requiem pour un fou,” an Algerian western by Elias Belkeddar produced by Iconoclast; “Alma Viva” by Cristele Alveis Meira, a Portugese coming-of-age produced by Gaelle Mareschi and Luis Urbano ; “Un amour d’Alienor,” a comedy by Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet, starring Anaïs
Demoustier and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, co-produced by Les Films Pelleas and Arte ; and “The Settlers” by Felipe Galvez, a period film about the massacre of Indians which is co-produced by France’s Don Quijote Films, Argentina’s Rei Cinema, France’s Ciné Sud and Denmark’s Snowglobe.

“Next Step has enjoyed some success because we are identifying and accompanying filmmakers more than just selecting projects,” said Bonhomme, adding that those young directors have a “unique approach and are engaged in some ways.”