When I heard the premise of this film, I knew I had to see it—a bittersweet comedy about a group of Lebanese women who try to ease the religious tensions between the Christian and Muslim men in their village.
This is the second film by Nadine Labaki, who wrote, directed and starred in this movie which won Best Narrative Film at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, as well as the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival.
Where Do We Go Now? (in Arabic with English subtitles) is the story of a remote village in Lebanon where both Christians and Muslims live together in relative peace. In this fictitious village, the mosque and church stand side by side. Equally important is the religiously-divided cemetery which looms beyond.
The film opens with a scene of the women of the village attending to the graves of their loved ones. Virtually all these women, both Muslim and Christian, have lost a husband, father, son or brother to past conflicts in Lebanon. This scene of loss and heartache sets up the foundation and motivations for rest of this tragicomedy.
While these women continue to mourn, sectarian conflict in the region and escalating violence swirl around the village and threaten to upset the delicate stability between the two groups. And so, the movie follows the antics of the clever women of the village as they distract and confuse their hot-headed sons and husbands. The goal of these women is to avoid a religious war, as they have lost enough already.
I watched this film in a packed cinema listening to the laughs and sobs of the mostly-Arab audience. The film was long (almost 2 hours) but it was one of those movies in which I lost sense of time and became totally engaged in the characters and their story.
This timely and relevant film opened yesterday, November 10th, in the UAE. It’s unclear when it will be released in the US, but I suggest keeping an eye on this film. Where Do We Go Now? is Lebanon’s 2011 entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category for the Academy Awards. If it gets an Oscar nomination, I’ll be rooting for it.