With her debut film Little Woods, which stars Tessa Thompson and Lillie James as two estranged sisters, filmmaker Nia DaCosta made a splash at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film explores themes of sisterhood, poverty, family obligation, poverty, and reproductive rights.

Taking place in rural North Dakota, Little Woods is set against the opioid epidemic which is currently ravaging much of rural America.

DaCosta told the crowd at the film’s screening at Tribeca: “I wanted to tell a story about women living in a rural part of America, and I knew I wanted to tell a human story about things that were in the news that were really politicized, like health care and women’s reproductive rights, and access to health care for women in particular.”

DaCosta personally recruited both Thompson and James to star in her film. She told Metro that Tessa Thompson was asked point blank over drinks during the Sundance Director’s Lab while DaCosta was workshopping her film.

DaCosta elaborated to the crowd at the screening how the election of Donald Trump weighs on the film’s narrative:

The expectation was that Hillary [Clinton] was going to be president, and this wouldn’t be relevant. Then Trump got elected. And it was a dark day. But my one friend said, ‘This is the worst day of my life. But at least your film is relevant now.’ Because we don’t know what is going to happen with health care and abortion clinics. There are only one each in North and South Dakota, and laws mean that they are blipping in and out of existence. …Our best American genres are the Western and the Southern Gothic. Because it is all about exploring Americanism and what does that mean. Westerns are about the American ideal, always being on the trail, and people making bad choices because they have bad options. Southern Gothic is about American decay. I have always been exploring what being American means, what was this dream that was promised us, and I hope this movie is in this vein.

The Nora Ephron Award was created in 2012 to honor the late filmmaker and excellence in storytelling by a female writer or director which embodies her spirit. DaCosta was also awarded a $25,000 prize from Chanel. The Tribeca jury said of DaCosta’s win:

For its sure-footed storytelling featuring an unconventional heroine who pushes past expectations of what is bravery in a woman’s life or in cinema. In watching this portrait of a woman at a crossroads in small-town America, we found ourselves wanting to see more stories from this filmmaker and more of her vision of a woman in the world. We chose writer-director Nia DaCosta’s Little Woods.

The win positions Little Woods to potentially follow in the footsteps of Barry Jenkins’ 2016’s indie darling Moonlight, which went on to win a few Academy Awards, including Best Picture. In any case, this prize establishes Nia DaCosta as a director to watch.

Below is a 2015 interview of Nia DaCosta at the Sundance Director’s Lab.