PEOPLE – It’s all about dance and drama in the upcoming Amazon Prime film Birds of Paradise.
The first trailer, exclusive to PEOPLE, for Sarah Adina Smith’s directorial debut sees two young women competing against one another at a prestigious ballet school in Paris while being pushed to their physical and emotional limits. The movie is based on the novel Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small.
Birds of Paradise stars Diana Silvers (Booksmart) as a new dancer who forms a bond with a grieving prodigy played by Kristine Froseth (Looking for Alaska) as they aim for the school’s ultimate prize: a contract with the Parisian Opera’s ballet company.
In the trailer, above, the dance school’s headmistress, played by Golden Globe winner Jacqueline Bisset, reminds Froseth’s character that being the top dancer at the school once “doesn’t mean you will be again” — to which she replies, “I will be No. 1.”
She gets heated competition in the form of Silvers’ character, who also aims to be the top ballerina at the school when she says, “I’m here to win the prize.”
As time passes, both girls are tested. Through grueling ballet sessions, they come to trust each other and form a tight bond. However, when both girls are taken by the principal male dancer, Felipe, their friendship quickly sours as they battle to have him as a dance partner.
Smith tells PEOPLE that she is hoping audiences “will lose themselves” in the world of dance in her “fun” and “pulpy” debut film. At the same time, she hopes they will “come away with some revelation, however small, about their own ambitions” in life.
“As a filmmaker, I was haunted by the question of whether one can achieve greatness at the highest level and still be a good person,” she says, adding, “or whether the soul is necessarily compromised along the way. I’m someone who will forever be searching for peace in my heart — I suspect that is the human condition. I wanted to make a film that was a trial of two souls, each one reaching for that elusive thing beyond her grasp.”
Smith says she wrote the script for Birds of Paradise “specifically” for Diana Silvers and Kristine Froseth, whom she calls “two incredibly talented and delightfully different actors.”
“They both jumped into the deep end with me and poured their entire hearts into their characters… all while undergoing rigorous training in ballet,” she tells PEOPLE, adding how “proud” she is of the project.
“It’s a process I’ll never forget,” Smith says.
Birds of Paradise begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Sept. 24.