Where Do We Go Now?
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 30th September 2012
This international film festival hit takes a serious subject – the uneasy cohabitation of Muslims and Christians in a small Lebanese village – and plays out the inherent drama in a delightful, humorous and clever manner.
High in the mountains, a community dodges latent landmines and navigates a peaceful way of life where the Us and Them of their religion is just a matter of fact. Past conflict has seen many of their men killed, and the two cemeteries up on a dusty hillside bear this legacy. When local unrest threatens to disrupt life again, the women band together in what is effectively one big intervention to prevent their husbands, brothers and sons from playing a deadly game of tit-for-tat.
Writer, director and star of the picture, Nadine Labaki (whose 2007 film Caramel is well worth renting), casts ordinary people with just a smattering of professional actors, giving the piece a tremendously naturalistic tone and ensuring everyone looks about as authentic as is possible. Evoking the passion of an Almodovar film, Labaki plays up the cliche of the cajoling wife, particularly hilarious in a scene where the villagers have gathered to watch television when the static-laden news broadcast imperils the happy peace. The women notice first with panicked glances, and in order to distract their menfolk from realising there is trouble breaking out, each wife picks a loud, over-the-top fight with her bemused chap.
Desperate times call for desperate measures as the women try to stem the retaliation and retribution (things get really crazy when four Ukrainian glamour models are imported as the ultimate diversion). Mixing musical numbers and mystical dances with simple farce, Where Do We Go Now? celebrates womanhood, but also humanity in all its senses.