Lola and the Sea – father and trans daughter must accept each other after sudden death in the family
Lola and the Sea tells the story of Lola (Mya Bollaers), who lives in the city with her best friend Samir (Sami Outalbali, SEX EDUCATION) studying for her diploma as a veterinary assistant. Emboldened by her life changing transition and support from her mother, she has the world at her feet with no plans of looking back.
When Lola receives the news that her mother has suddenly passed away, she returns home for the funeral and to face her estranged father, Phillipe (Benoît Magimel, THE PIANO TEACHER). Driven together by the common goal to fulfil her mother’s last wishes, Lola and Phillipe reluctantly embark on a journey to the North Sea. Forced to spend time alone together, Phillipe begins to accept his daughter for the first time.
LOLA AND THE SEA is a tender exploration of family relationships and identity. It features a great soundtrack too including music from Culture Club, Antony and the Johnsonsand Four Non Blondes.
In theatres and digitally as of December 17, 2021. Produced by Wrong Men and 10:15! Productions. Distributed by Peccadillo Pictures.
Born in Brussels in 1982 and first trained at the INSAS in dramatic interpretation, Laurent Micheli worked as an actor for 10 years. On stage, he worked in France and in Belgium, both in classical and contemporary texts. The desire to carry his own projects quickly pushed him to direct, especially with the Belgian collective Madame Véro (Les Trublions, 2008 and Ouasmok, 2010). Then, he directed his first feature film, Even Lovers Get The Blues, released in 2017. His rich and diverse artistic experience provides a solid foundation for the making of his films. Even Lovers Get The Blues was selected in many international festivals and received many awards, and two nominations at the Magritte Awards 2018. In addition, Laurent Micheli studied at the Writing Workshop of La Femis in Paris from which he graduated in 2016, and is also the winner of Émergence in 2018. Lola and the Sea is Laurent Micheli’s second feature film.
Where did the idea for the film come from, the clash between a father and his child?
I think that often in cinema, the need to tell a story comes from a double impetus: one private and the other political. The private reason comes from a need to delve into my own adolescence, a period where the adult world seemed violent, archaic, and not really in tune with young people and their needs. On the whole, I was an angry teenager, struggling to find my place in the world, and I wanted to go back and explore that energy and anger, and draw a character from it. When I was young, I had a constant feeling of injustice that often drove me to go against any form of established order. That’s the energy we find in the relationship between Lola and Philippe. And paradoxically, whereas my initial impulse was to do justice to Lola, the role of Philippe usurped that and forced me to reexamine my thoughts on paternity and masculinity, and home in on them to keep from slipping into cliché. The political reason was a need to create a main character from a minority and give them top billing, to offer them a platform and visibility. I’ve always been sensitive to LGBT issues, it’s part of my daily life, so naturally I wanted to talk about trans-identity. I did an enormous amount of research on the topic so what I wrote would be as true and accurate as possible. I felt it was time to use the power of cinema to shift the boundaries and advance people’s thinking. With the goal of making a movie that would speak to everyone: a highly specific subject treated in a universal manner. The parent-child relationship was perfect for that.
Why was it important for a transgender actor to play the main role?
It was an important choice to show that face and that body on the screen. Transgender people have been invisible in society. We’re not used to seeing those bodies, they’re unfamiliar. It’s time to give them a platform, to make them heroes and offer a spotlight. I know it’s a vast, complex debate, Can we only play what we are? Obviously not. But it so happens that we live at a time where minorities are reclaiming their stories. All I hope is that in 20 years, a trans woman will be able to play a cisgender role, and vice versa. It’s just that we’re not there yet.
How did Mya Bollaers win you over in the audition?
She had the capacity to deliver her story and emotions with no filter, like a diamond in the rough, waiting to be cut and polished. She went about it all rather chaotically. She had no acting technique, and to top it off she’s dyslexic and dysgraphic. She had a truthfulness that interested me, and that’s what I wanted to capture.
Did Mya contribute anything to the script?
I used some little things. For instance, the scene where Lola doesn’t want to dance. During the audition I asked the girls to dance and Mya didn’t want to so she proposed something else instead. That intrigued me. I told her, “There’s going to be a scene where you’ll have to dance.” (laughs) It creates life. And creates truth too, because she really doesn’t like to dance. At times she struggles with her body. Sometimes transitioning can act like a second adolescence, whereas Mya just came out of that. I think it was a beautiful way to recount how someone can claim ownership of their femininity, surrounded by all those women. There’s the physical transition, through hormone treatment eventually, and then there’s appropriating femininity, which is actually a social construction. It can take time, whether we’re talking about a transgender woman or a cisgender one. Constructing one’s own identity, femininity or masculinity is a long journey.
Why did you choose Benoît Magimel for the role of the father?
Working with a star wasn’t a goal in itself. My hope was to reach a broad audience to talk about a very specific topic. I wanted to open doors that needed opening rather than preach to the choir. With that in mind, it seemed important to work with a popular actor that people liked, who would appeal to a large audience and give the film a lot of visibility. But obviously that wasn’t the only plus; Benoît is a spectacular actor, a real virtuoso. Never in my life have I been so blown away by an actor’s technique and talent. And I’ve seen a lot of actors, since I was one myself. I have to admit I was a little skeptical at first about working with a star, because they bring with them everything that represents. But Benoît is very open and curious, and the work was the same as with any actor who needs to be guided and directed. What interested me about him was his masculine, heterosexual side. He’s played a number of characters who move in highly masculine, almost macho realms. But he also has a great deal of sensibility, he’s a hypersensitive actor, and quite intense. That was compelling for the role of the father, and also necessary to render the character’s complexity.
He agreed to the part. That was already telling.
Absolutely. And I didn’t even have to talk him into it, he told me right from the start he wanted to do the film so we could relax and talk about whatever I wanted. It’s great. Flattering too, and I hope it’ll draw people into the theater.
What does the role of the father, Philippe, represent?
With Philippe, I show that acceptance is a journey. People need time. They need to be made to face their responsibilities, but without having the finger pointed at them. I want the public to empathize with this dad. He’s not just some narrow-minded prick or fascist pig. It hasn’t been easy for him either. He’s a human being like anyone else, who wants to do right but does wrong. (laughs) He screws up, makes mistakes. But at least he tried, and we can see he’s affected by everything he says. For me, the most important line in the movie is spoken by the woman who runs the hostess bar, when she tells him, “I don’t think anyone would do that just to be shitty with their parents. No one does that.” It’s not against the father. He shouldn’t take it personally. The film addresses all mothers and fathers, and makes them ask themselves how they would react if they had a transgender child. I’m surrounded by people involved in film and the arts, really open-minded people, yet each time they’re faced with the question, they have to admit it wouldn’t be as simple as they’d like.
AWARDS & NOMINATIONS
· WINNER – Magritte Award (Belgium Oscars) – Most Promising Actress
· WINNER- Magritte Award – Best Production Design
· NOMINEE – Magritte Award – Best Film
· NOMINEE – Magritte Award – Best Director
· NOMINEE – Magritte Award – Best Script
· NOMINEE – Magritte Award – Best Origial Score
· NOMINEE – Magritte Award – Best Editing
· WINNER – Audience Award – Frame San Francisco Film festival
· NOMINEE – Best International Film – Haifa International Film Festival
· NOMINEE – Best Foreign Film – CESAR AWARD
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.