In a remote Lebanese mountain village, cut off by a minefield and accessible only by a rickety bridge, the Christian and Muslim communities live together in an uneasy peace always threatened by the temperamental passions of the town’s men.
In a remote
Lebanese mountain village, cut off by a minefield and accessible only by a
rickety bridge, the Christian and Muslim communities live together in an uneasy
peace always threatened by the temperamental passions of the town’s men.
As events in the rest of the country escalate and Lebanon
spirals towards civil war, the village’s fragile stability is threatened. The women, Muslim and Christian alike,
conspire to keep the men from killing each other, going to increasingly desperate
lengths; breaking the town’s only TV, faking miracles, even hiring a troupe of
Ukrainian exotic dancers in an effort to distract the men from the violence and
strife of the outside world.
Opening with a mournful, hauntingly effective musical
scene where the village’s women, united by grief, tend the graves in the dusty
local cemetery, the Muslim graves divided from the Christian graves by a rough
dirt track, Nadine Labaki’s second
film Where Do We Go Now? is almost
impossible to classify. It has musical
interludes but it’s not really a musical.
It’s funny but it’s hardly a comedy. The tone dances surefootedly from serious to comic to tragic
and back again constantly keeping the audience off balance. Perhaps it’s best to see Where Do We Go Now? as a comic allegory
akin to Aristophanes’ Lysistrata (whose
influence can also be seen in recent release The Source). Fed up
with the religious intolerance, sectarian violence and masculine honour of the
menfolk, the women, sick and tired of all the hostility, band together,
determined to keep the peace by any means necessary.
Like Labaki’s earlier film, 2007’s warm, sensuous comedy Caramel, Where Do We Go Now? celebrates female solidarity, friendship and pragmatism
while exposing the paradox at the heart of Lebanese culture. The two communities have co-existed for
centuries in peace. They share the
same language, food and culture.
They share the same God.
Why are they trying to kill each other over how best to worship Him? It’s a simplistic view which fails to
take into account the poisonous influence of Lebanon’s biggest neighbours,
Israel and Syria, and their nasty little proxy wars, but Labaki’s film strives
for wider significance beyond just the Middle East. The men fight and die over religion but it could just as
easily have been race or nationality.
The causes may vary but the results are always the same; the women tend
While the luminous Labaki appears as the free-spirited
Amale, a Christian widow with a crush on the Muslim painter decorating her
café, the film is very much an ensemble piece with Yvonne Maalouf as the bossy mayor’s wife who pretends to have
ecstatic visions of the Virgin Mary particularly good and Labaki, Antoinette Noufaily, Layla Hakim and Claude Baz
Moussawbaa make fine co-conspirators.
Poignant and poetic, Where Do We Go Now? may suggest that the problems
of the Middle East could be solved by sex, hash cakes and weapon confiscation (admittedly
nobody’s coming up with a better solution) but the film is as affecting as it