Italian director Maura Delpero is the winner of this year’s annual Women in Motion Young Talent Award, being bestowed by the Kering Group and the Cannes Film Festival despite the cancellation of the 2020 festival due to the pandemic.

Delpero, who studied playwriting in Buenos Aires, after two documentaries made her feature film debut in 2019 with “Maternal,” a drama inspired by her spending four years in an Argentinian refuge for adolescent single mothers run by nuns.

“Maternal” world premiered in the Locarno competition where it won the Special Jury Prize. The film has since segued to screen at a slew of festivals and was released theatrically in France this past October to positive reviews.

Variety critic Guy Lodge in his Locarno review praised the film as “a moving, lively study of conflicting duties and desires” marking “an assured shift into narrative filmmaking.”

“At a time when the debate about women’s rights over their own bodies is finally in the limelight in Argentina, Maura Delpero’s film, which is shot as a documentary, brings the themes of motherhood and personal choice, the relationship between mothers and children, and the importance of women’s education and emancipation into sharp focus,” said a statement from Kering, the luxury goods group that created the Women in Motion Awards in tandem with Cannes in 2015.

The Women In Motion Young Talent Award award carries a hefty €50,000 ($60,000) in prize money that will help Delpero finance her next project, which is a still untitled female-centric drama set in an Italian mountain village between 1944 and 1945, produced by Bologna’s Cinedora.

Since 2015, six directors have received the prestigious prize: Leyla Bouzid (Tunisia), Gaya Jiji (Syria), Ida Panahandeh (Iran), Maysaloun Hamoud (Palestine), Carla Simón (Spain) and, in 2019, Eva Trobisch of Germany who, as the prize’s tradition dictates, chose Delpero as her successor. 

Cannes director Thierry Frémaux in a statement underlined that, “After a year marked by so many cancellations and by so much frustration, it’s a wonderful symbol to have maintained the award.”

“This year, it was more important than ever to highlight and recognize the contribution  made by talented young women, and to continue the fight for equality across the whole profession,” he added.