Venus Noire, a raw French film by Adbellatif Kechiche, became a launch pad to fame for first-time Cuban actress Yahima Torres, who won Most Promising Actress at the 16th annual Lumiere Awards.
"It is all like a dream and a miracle, although it also meant much dedication and sacrifice on my part," she told reporters.
Venus Noire is a depiction of the tragic real-life story of South African Saartje Baartman, whose hyptertrophied genitals made her an object of attention by scientific, artistic and bourgeois circles in Europe who abused her and treated her like an animal.
Yahima Torres came to France in 2003, invited by friends to teach Spanish, and in her neighbourhood, Belleville, she accidentally ran into the director Kechiche, previously known for his films The Secret of the Grain and Games of Love and Chance.
Torres, who had never acted before, said she took classes in theater, African dance, singing and violin; learned Afrikaans, and gained almost 30 pounds to play the part of Saartje Baartman.