23 February 2012 | umar-ashfaq
A thought-provoking entertainer
Where Do We Go Now by the Lebanese-Canadian director Nadine Labike is set in a war-torn village in Lebanon. The backdrop of the movie is the Christian-Muslim conflict plaguing the region at large, and its effect on the mixed population of the village dwellers. The comedy-drama focuses on a group of women and their antics to keep the men off each other's throats. It starts off in an almost utopian setting, with the view of the village mosque and church at dusk in a single frame, symbolizing the ideal of peaceful existence between the Christians and Muslims.
The movie premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and won the people's choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Nadine, who also acts in the film, may be accused by some quarters of trivializing the conflict between the Abrahamic faiths with her comic take on religion, complete with a climax reminiscent of a Cheech and Chong flick. However, the tone of the film remains somber throughout, and the viewer is often reminded of the toll of the conflict on both sides of the religious divide, with glimpses of intermittent sectarian strife.
The intelligent dialogue, interspersed with repartee between the female characters is refreshingly entertaining, offering a peek inside the (mostly) segregated Arab society and humanizing a population segment often portrayed as meek and subservient to the other sex.
Nadine's second directorial venture after Caramel continues to court controversy, with an ending which Labaki acknowledges might "raise a lot of polemics. It might upset people who are a bit fanatic or too conservative..." By the end of the film, Nadine is sure to rouse some thought-provoking questions in the viewers mind, fulfilling the obligation to her craft and pushing the envelope. Where Do We Go Now has been chosen as the Lebanon's 2011 entry in the best foreign language film category for the Academy Awards.