Where Do We Go Now is several things at once: a drama; a comedy; a musical of sorts; a slice of life in a troubled village and a commentary on life in general, at least in Lebanon and other countries nearby. It succeeds very well! True, once or twice things changed too quickly from drama to comedy or music; but this is a minor quibble. The plot moves along at a good pace and I was glued to the screen to see how everything would play out. The acting is superlative; although the actors are not highly seasoned professionals they give nuanced, convincing and passionate performances. The choreography and the cinematography work well and the musical score enhances the film, too.
When the action starts, we meet quite a few people in a Lebanese village isolated because the only bridge to it is badly damaged and needs repair; traveling too far from the village is also dangerous because of land mines. The villagers are hemmed in. Fortunately, there is peace between the Christian and Muslim members of the community; their houses of worship are almost side by side–there’s just one house between the mosque and the church. People are also very excited that a few teenagers found a way to hook up a television; now they can watch programs including the news.
It isn’t long, however, before pent up tensions begin to surface. At first it’s just a comment here and there; but things deteriorate. Once the villagers see on television is that there is fighting on the outside between Muslims and Christians, the Muslim and Christian men in the village begin to fight and the women oppose the violence. Things begin to spiral out of control after Muslims suspect that Christians put goats in their Mosque and stole their shoes while they were praying inside the mosque; and Christians are appalled and angered when a Muslim man smashes their statue of the Virgin Mary and they discover chicken blood in the font to mock their Communion.
The religious leaders want peace but it is the women who really struggle to make it happen. The women hire Ukrainian belly dancers to distract the men and put hashish in baked goods to make the men mellow! There’s more, too, including a huge plot twist at the end of the film that left quite an impression on me.
Look for superb performances by director Nadine Labaki who plays Amale, a Christian woman in love with Muslim Rabih (Julian Farhat); Kevin Abboud as Nassim; Petra Saghbini as Rita; Caroline Labaki as Aïda; Yvonne Maalouf as Yvonne; Claude Baz Moussawbaa as Takla; Ali Haidar as Roukoz; Oxana Chihane as Katia and Leyla Hakim as Afaf. As I mentioned above, the others give wonderful performances, too.
Where Do We Go Now is a poignant look at life in a troubled Lebanese village and how it can be so hard to achieve peace between warring groups, in this case Christians and Muslims. I highly recommend this film for people who like drama with cultural, social and political themes with a side dish of comedy and even some music to lighten things up. Moreover, people who appreciate the work of Nadine Labaki will not be disappointed.