Whatever Lola Wants opens at DIFF

MUMBAI: The director and cast of Whatever Lola Wants, the film about the growing friendship between a lonely American dancer in Cairo and the living legend of Oriental dance who agrees to mentor her, officially launched the film at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF).


Directed by Moroccan filmmaker Nabil Ayouch, the film will have its world premiere at the Gala for the Arabian Nights programming segment. Of note is the diverse cast of mixed nationalities: American Laura Ramsey (She’s the Man, 2005) plays Lola, and Lebanese actress Carmen Lebbos plays the reclusive Oriental dance teacher Ismahan. Fellow stars Hichem Rostom and Assaad Bouab have been extremely popular in their native markets, Rostom in Tunisia and Bouab in Morocco.


Ayouch stated, “I am moved by the opportunity to premiere here in Dubai.  There are not many places in the world where we can gather people from East and West – that’s what the movie is about.”


He added that the film both stressed the differences between the East and West and aimed for understanding between civilizations. “The idea of the clash of civilizations is not right. We need to understand each other,” he said.


Rostom said, “This is about human dialogue. Each woman changed the other – they both evolved.”


Lebbos concurred, “There is a misconception about belly dancing.  It means ‘living the moment‘ – it is not about steps and motions, but emotions. In the movie, I try to explain to Laura that dancing is almost like a spiritual state of mind.”


One of Ayouch’s aims was for the American public to relate more to the Arab world’s positive aspects, such as dance, through Ramsey’s character. Ramsey, who came to the role with no dance experience, trained in Casablanca for six months, six days a week and five hours a day.


Carmen Lebbos welcomed the chance to have more opportunities to portray the lives of Arabs, as a means of teaching people around the Arab world about each other. Stardom came late to the actress because of the conflict in Lebanon, but Ayoush stressed that she was the only woman he would have in the part. He stated, “She is such a great actress with a bright career ahead of her.  She deserves more and it is the beginning of something for her.”


Ayouch concluded by praising DIFF for putting the spotlight on Arab cinema, stating, “We need to keep our identity alive.”