Lola (Laura Ramsey) is struggling to pursue her dream of becoming a dancer in New York, but the auditions are disheartening and the rejections are piling up. On top of it all, her day job as a mail carrier is beginning to look more and more like a permanent gig. By chance, during one of many evenings she spends commiserating with Yussef, her gay Egyptian neighbor, she's captivated when he shows her an old video featuring the seductive belly dancing of Ismahan, one of Egypt's biggest stars. Fate soon intervenes again when Lola happens to meet Zach, a handsome Egyptian attending business school in the United States. The two start a whirlwind romance, and through a series of twists, Lola finds herself in Cairo, where she decides to track down the reclusive Ismahan for lessons. There she learns not only the secrets of oriental dance but also the secret of Ismahan's mysterious past. Director Nabil Ayouch uses Lola's hilariously corn-fed naïveté as a vehicle to explore the comic misunderstandings of cross-cultural love and the underlying prejudices of both Eastern and Western culture. He also casts a loving eye over the glorious art of oriental dance and those who practice it. Lola manages to win hearts and success in the most unorthodox fashion and to open doors that would otherwise be closed to a blonde American. Shot on sets in Moroccan studios, Whatever Lola Wants is surprisingly effective in evoking Cairo. This modern-day, global fairytale offers plenty of dancing, sparkling costumes, and a rousing soundtrack-in short, it's loads of fun.
Director's Statement Collapse
The only image Western media portrays nowadays of the Arab world is one of terrorism and religious extremism. It is as if the Arab world has become somehow inhuman, incapable of exchanging and imparting its culture, as if there were no longer room there for the human being in all its complexity. The West and the
Middle East are two worlds with many differences. Each has its specificities, its culture, and its history. Throughout the ages, those histories have crossed paths, and exchanges and communication of culture, knowledge, and art have been possible.
I wanted to make a movie where the human side of things had a place at the center of the identity crisis facing both worlds, where communication is at the base of all forms of exchange—learning to give in order to better receive—where what unites and divides us is neither terrorism nor bombs but all that we are, our faults and our attributes, and especially our potential for transcending them in order to better acquaint ourselves with one another. Dance is one thing that can draw these two worlds closer—Oriental dance, as a dance of the ages, the conduit of a vast culture, one primordial element of a civilization. And Oriental dance as a belly dance, one of procreation, one that gave birth to so many beautiful “movements.”
When Ismahan imparts her passion for dance to Lola, when she tells her of that very particular form of rapture known as Tarab, she gives her something of herself, of her fears, her pain, and her history. As Lola imparts her passion for life to Ismahan, she brings her into a present made of hope and helps her rediscover what is most beautiful—and buried deepest—within her. Lola and Ismahan tell a simple story about two women of different cultures whose destinies are intertwined.
About the Director(s)Collapse
Nabil Ayouch (b. 1969, Paris, France) studied theater and direction before he began directing commercials in 1992. In 1997, after making several short films, he directed his first feature, Mektoub, which was selected to represent Morocco at the 1998 Academy Awards®. Half a million people in Morocco alone saw his second feature, Ali Zaoua, Prince of the Streets. The film won a total of 44 prizes at various international festivals. Between 2000 and 2003, he created the Mohammed Reggab Award for screenplays and produced eight short subjects by first-time young talents. He founded the organizations Moroccan Coalition for Cultural Diversity, Made In Morocco, Media Films Development, and Moroccan Anti-Piracy Struggle.