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‘Lola’ to screen at Marrakech

Festival opens with 'Golden Age'

MADRID — One of the most hotly anticipated Arab world films, Nabil Ayouch’s “Whatever Lola Wants,” will receive a special screening at next month’s 7th Marrakech Intl. Film Festival, which opens Dec. 7 with “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” helmed by Shekhar Kapur.

One fest highlight looks sure to be a one-day master-class delivered by Martin Scorsese, a strong fest supporter. Scorsese teamed with Abbas Kiarostami to conduct a much-praised workshop at Marrakech in 2005.

Leonardo DiCaprio will attend the Marrakech opening night, fest organizers announced Wednesday.

Fest closes Dec. 15 with Eddie O’Flaherty’s “The Neighbor.” Typically for Marrakech, whose organizers are passionate about cultural diversity, the competition lineup of its 7th edition is bullishly cosmopolitan boasting 14 films from 14 countries, with a special emphasis on first features — six in all — and films from lesser-known film-making countries, such as territories in Eastern Europe.

Of unannounced contenders for Marrakech’s Grand Prize, Veiko Ounpuu’s “Autumn Ball” presents a drab slice of Estonian realism, Czech David Ondricek’s “Grandhotel” spins an offbeat comedy around a gaggle of characters at a northern Czech Republic hotel, while Srdan Golubovic’s “American Friend”-ish “The Trap” is a noirish take on post-Milosevic Serbia.

But, under pressure to also profile its homegrown Morocco film industry, one of the most vibrant in the Arab world, Marrakech looks set to include a new contempo Moroccan Cinema panorama, as well as showcasing “Lola.”

A New York-Cairo tale of femme friendship and belly-dancing “Lola” toplines Laura Ramsay as a New York postal worker who blows her savings on travelling to Cairo to take lessons from disgraced belly-dancing legend Ismahan.

Pic, which will receive a gala screening in competition at the concurrent Dubai Fest, is produced and sold by France’s Pathe. But it’s directed by Ayouch, Morocco’s most prominent filmmaker, and with a budget put at $12 million, it’s easily the costliest movie ever from a Moroccan filmmaker.

Boasting 14 films from an annual production that is likely to hit 20 pics in 2007, the contempo Moroccan panorama includes new pics by vet Moroccan cineastes such as Ahmed Boulane (“Les Anges de Satan”) and irrepressible taboo-breaker Nabyl Lahlou (“Tabite or Not Tabite”).

Moroccan Latif Lahlou’s “Samira’s Garden,” which took a Fipresci international critics’ association prize at Montreal, plays in competition, as already announced.

New competish titles include another Montreal awardee, Mexican first-timer Aaron Fernandez’s street crime tragedy “Used Parts,” “The Other Side of the Mirror,” about a woman forced to give up her child, from Algerian producer-director Nadia Cherabi, Manila slum-set “Slingshot” by prolific Philippine helmer Brillante Mendoza, and father-son drama “The Red Awn” from China’s Cai Shangjun, Zhang Yang’s screenwriter.

Competition is rounded up among new titles by Dutch dysfunctional family laffer “Wolfsbergen,” directed by Nanouk Leopold, and Fin Aleski Salmenpera’s “Man’s Job,” which could cause a small stir in Marrakech, given its background of male prostitution.

John Hurt, Pavel Lounguine, Aissa Maiga, Claude Miller and Aitana Sanchez-Gijon join president Milos Forman, Kapur and Parker Posey on the fest jury.

Fest tributes will go to Japanese director Shinji Aoyama, Moroccan helmer Mustapha Derkaoui, DiCaprio and Abel Ferrara.

MARRAKECH COMPETITION LINEUP

  • “Autumn Ball,” Veiko Ounpuu (Estonia)

  • “The Other Side of the Mirror,” Nadia Cherabi (Algeria)

  • “Funuke Show Some Love, You Losers!,” Daihachi Yoshida (Japan)

  • “Grandhotel,” David Ondricek (Czech Republic)

  • “Samira’s Garden,” Latif Lahlou (Morocco)

  • “Man’s Job,” Aleski Salmenpera (Finland)

  • “Slingshot,” Brillante Mendoza (Philippines)

  • “The Hard-Hearted,” Alexey Misgirev (Russia)

  • “The Red Awn,” Cai Shangjun (China)

  • “The Savages,” Tamara Jenkins (U.S.)

  • “The Trap,” Srdan Golubovic (Serbia)

  • “Used Parts,” Aaron Fernandez (Mexico)

  • “With a Girl of Black Soil,” Jeon Soo-il (South Korea)

  • “Wolfbergen,” Nanouk Leopold (Netherlands)

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