Naïla Guiguet’s “Dustin” rounds out its festival run at this year’s MyFrenchFilmFestival, the entirely online portion of the Unifrance Rendez-Vous, after strong showings at major international festivals and winning best short film prizes at Toronto, Zagreb and several other events. Not bad for a first-time director.

Kicking off in an abandoned warehouse, a crowd of hundreds sway in unison to a flood of 145 BPM techno music. A bright spot of color in an otherwise gray sea of people, Dustin, a young trans woman, and her gang: Félix, Raya, and Juan take several breaks from dancing to scout out potential sources of free drinks and party drugs.

As the night draws to its conclusion, the group emerges squinting into the morning sun and make their way to the charming flat of a new friend made at the rave. There, relationships are evaluated under the revealing light of day.

In addition to directing, Guiguet also wrote the short film, with significant input from lead actor Dustin Muchuvitz. Alta Rocca Films produced the short, and New Europe Film Sales and Square Eyes (ex-Some Shorts) handle international sales with UFO Distribution handling domestic distribution in France.

Guiget spoke with Variety ahead of MyFrenchFilmFestival about the film’s semi-autobiographical origins, the importance of an authentic shooting experience and her ambitions to expand into feature filmmaking.

Congratulations on the success of your film! Were you able to travel with the film at all last year?

Not that many unfortunately. There were only a few public physical screenings, and the film lived mostly digitally. For that reason, the film being seen in theaters was big for us. It gave the impression that finally the film became real.

The film is called “Dustin,” as is your principal actor in real life. Is this narrative biographical in some way? What input did she have on the film’s story?

The film was inspired by a moment I had with Dustin, my friend in real life. But this event was mostly a pretext to write a story and make Dustin a fictional character. Obviously, there is a lot of us in the film but I wouldn’t say it’s autobiographical.

Can you talk a bit about Dustin as an actor? I saw her in “The Demons of Dorothy,” also in this year’s MFFF selection, and there her role is entirely different, but her performance equally strong.

She is very surprising in a good way. It was a real pleasure to work with her. She has a real emotional intelligence and she was very generous on set. She trusted me to take her sometimes to places of strong emotional intensity. She played the game to the fullest and surprised herself, I think, with her capability for finesse and sensitivity in the role.

It looks like you filmed the first half of the film at a real rave. Is that the case? And if so, what were the challenges you faced in doing so?

Yes, it was the case. I don’t know if I felt it was challenging, but if there was a challenge, it was being surrounded by a world that didn’t care about the shooting. People who were just there to enjoy their evening. It was up to us to adapt and deal with it. But for me the challenge would have been harder if I had had to “pretend” to be at a party. I needed this immersion to feel that everything was real to believe it.

What are you working on now? Any plans for a feature in your future?

Yes. I’m actually writing a feature film now, which is my priority at the moment. I hope that this project will see the light of day soon. I really want it to happen.

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Naïla Guiguet Credit: Alta Rocca Films