Nadine Labaki’s Where Do We Go Now? won the Audience Choice award at the Toronto Film Festival and it’s easy to see why. This film has everything you want - it mixes comedy, drama and music but never loses sight of the seriousness of the subject at its core.
The film opens with a procession of women, clad in sombre black, marching towards the local cemetery. We are told these women are "two clans of broken hearts" and as they make their way to the graves of their loved ones, the photographs placed on top show that they are the graves of men. Curiosity is aroused and the question is raised: what happened to these husbands, fathers, sons and brothers? This scene truly conjures up what is to come and sets the tone for the rest of the film.
Where Do We Go Now? tells of a small Lebanese community living in the dusty, remote countryside. It is clear that a past wave of violence has taken its toll on the town. However, the community is now one where Christians and Muslims co-exist peacefully, where the Church and the Mosque stand side by side and where the priest and imam both preach the same message. Despite the religious tensions and sectarian violence that is mounting outside this microcosm of apparent harmony, the women of the town make sure not to allow past events dictate the future.
This peace is a delicate one, however, and also shortlived, as the men choose to react to the politics of the outside world. They begin to fight, attack each other’s place of worship and in general become ignorant to the fact that they can live happily together and their town can be different – if they just so choose.
In the wake of this new reality, the women of the town – apparently the only ones with a bit of sense – band together to come up with clever and oftentimes amusing ways to distract their husbands and sons from what is happening around them, as they are determined not to let past events be repeated. Their plans range from the simple sabotage of the town’s only communal television to the funnier ones of inviting a gang of Eastern European dancers to the town, baking up treats laced with hash and converting to the opposite religion. But is all their work in vain?
Where Do We Go Now? is full of powerful, realistic and complex performances -the characters and those who play them are excellent. If there is one thing that this film has down perfectly it is authenticity.
Labaki's film is a beautiful fable about how violence can be "fought with flowers and prayers not guns and flares". She pushes home the message of the stupidity of violence, waste of human life and pointlessness of religious hatred.
Definitely one to see; it’s funny and heartbreaking all at once.