Where Do We Go Now?CultureCinemaMovie reviews
In 2008, conflict broke out amongst politicians in Lebanon, which subsequently led to pandemonium on the streets as followers of opposing political parties began killing each other.
Director Nadine Labaki, who witnessed the chaos, believed that the country was on the verge of a new civil war. She recollected seeing neighbours who had lived peacefully together for over two decades turn into enemies in a few hours. She was also pregnant with her first child at the time. Thoughts plagued her as to what she would do if her unborn child grew up to fight to protect his home, which in turn formed the basis of the narrative for Where Do We Go Now?
Closing the Human Rights Film Festival, the drama is set in a remote Lebanese village where Christians and Muslims dwell together. The beautifully shot opening sequence presents a procession of women, solemnly making their way towards the village cemetery.
Some hold crosses while others are veiled, but the two groups are united in black attire and shared grief. It is at the cemetery where the women, like the graves, are divided into the two congregations to pay their respects to those they have lost.
This schism proves to be a problem for the men of the village who are constantly at loggerheads. Despite their great hatred for one another, no man has yet been labelled a murderer because their female counterparts do their best to stifle the feuds which are triggered by petty mischief. Whether it is goats in the church or stolen shoes, even minor mishaps call for retaliation.
Worried that their efforts are simply not enough, the band of women, led by café owner Amal (Labaki) and the mayor’s hard-headed wife Yvonne, go to even greater and more ridiculous lengths by tapping into their carnal desires and hiring Russian strippers to entertain them and keep their minds off fighting. The sight of all this bare flesh grips the men like a drug, which is then reinforced by real drugs – cakes laced with hashish.
Labaki’s follow-up to her 2007 hit Caramel has proved a success. Awarded the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival 2011, the dramedy has set a standard for Lebanese filmmakers to reach.
Part of its success is down to Labaki’s approach towards the casting. She revealed that the vast majority of the cast were not professional actors, with no training. Matching ordinary people to her characters gives them credibility which has indeed added a richness to the film. As a member of the cast herself, she gave a phenomenal performance and has proven that she is exquisite both in front of and behind the camera.
Where Do We Go Now? will be released in the UK this summer.