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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Where Do We Go Now | Nadine Labaki, Julien Farhat | Review

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Where Do We Go Now

By Judy Thorburn

Where Do We Go Now? is a film about female empowerment and the result of what can happen when women of different religions band together for a mutual cause.

Lebanese filmmaker and actress Nadine Labaki (Caramel) co-wrote, directed and stars in this unusual blend of comedy, drama and musical that won the People’s Choice Award at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.  Labaki takes on a very serious subject that she doesn't shy away from, religious tensions among Muslims and Christians in the Middle East, and she has a clear, strong handle on her vision and delivery in this successful mix of genres.

Set in a remote Lebanese village where the church and Mosque stand just yards away from each other, and the people of both faiths share a peaceful coexistance, the film follows the town's women as they strive to keep the head strong men from engaging in a religious war.

Labaki portrays Amale, a local pretty, single Christian mom attracted to a handsome Muslim named Rabih (Julien Farhat) who is helping renovate the local cafe she owns. She is just one of the women in the village that know to well what it feels like to lose a husband, father or and son as the result of religious flare ups and they are sick and tired of mourning over their needless deaths.

There is only one workable TV for everyone in the village to share, but when a news broadcast reports a flare up of deadly violence in a nearby city, the men get all riled up, causing the women to make their initial move to keep the fragile peace intact by unplugging the wires on the TV.

Nevertheless, the can of worms had already been opened.  After a young boy working in the church accidentally falls on the cross and breaks it in half, he is afraid to come forth with the truth and the Muslims are blamed, setting off a series of tit for tats and escalating retributions.

In an effort to distract the men from killing each other, the women unite, coming up with several clever ideas including faking a miracle, baking some cookies and cakes laced with hashish, to hiring a troupe of Ukranian strippers and ultimately, an ingenious, well crafted plan I refuse to give away.

One strong, deeply moving, effective film sequence revolves around how far a grief stricken mother would go to hide the death of her son after he dies in the line of fire between both sides while away from the village. Despite her profound sorrow, she is unyielding in her determination to keep it a secret in an attempt to avoid its impact on mounting tensions.
Labicki has a genuine gift for storytelling, has assembled a cast of excellent actors (not known to most  American audiences) and presents a moving and touching story with tragedy, pain and sorrow while adding some humor and musical numbers as levity.   It isn't a perfect film  and some may feel that that characters suddenly breaking into song is a distraction.  I don't agree.  There are some silly moments, but it is obvious the talented filmmaker's heart is in the right place.

Ultimately, Where Do We Go Now? makes a timely statement against religious intolerance and violence and who has the power to stop it.

It was Hillary Clinton who said, it takes a village, referring to the influence on its youth.  To expound on that statement, we all can learn from the behavior of the people living in this village.  It goes to show, that if only women ruled the world, it would surely be a better, more compassionate place to live. Who needs weapons of destruction when females have other means to stop war.

Labaki makes that point and a whole lot more in this unique, smart film that I urge everyone, especially men, to see.

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