Where Do We Go Now?
War is destroying a small town in Lebanon. The bridge connecting it to the outside world is a bombed-out disaster, navigable only by scooter. Minefields blow up local livestock and occasionally injure roaming children. Women make frequent pilgrimages to the cemetery to mourn those lost to war. A single television brings the modern world to them in static-filled snippets.
For years, a tenuous peace has held the town’s Muslim and Christian communities together. Both are connected to the world by a pair of teenage boys who brave the bridge to sell homemade goods for manufactured essentials like paint, lipstick and pantyhose. But when the television brings news to the town of renewed sectarian violence, the men’s nerves fray.
The Muslim and Christian women of the village are desperate to distract the men, so they send the teenagers to town with orders to bring back a busload of dancing girls. Their logic is that lusty men don’t have time to skirmish, but the arrival of a flock of tall skinny blondes seems to fuel the men’s taste for fighting.
Where Do We Go Now? offers an intriguing solution to the conflicts in the Middle East. The mixture of light comedy, high drama and musical interludes is a testament to the bonds and strength of women. Though many of the plans are zany and don’t work out, the women remain determined.
The film, however, has a problem. To celebrate the women, the men are made boorish buffoons. Comedy by nature requires a bit of exaggeration, but these men seem incapable of reason. At times the effect makes Middle Eastern men seem irrational. To the movie’s credit, the Imam and the priest remain rational.
The comedy and drama don’t always mesh, and the film takes a grave turn before its comedic denouement. Still, we see powerful performances by Nadine Labaki (who also directed) and Yvonne Maalouf in a film that shows violence as unnecessary. Labaki has good comedic timing and coaches touching and fun moments from her wide cast.
In making a comedy about the absurdity of war, Labaki offers a surprisingly entertaining and poignant statement about the violence religious zealotry inspires in her homeland and beyond.
Where Do We Go Now? is a funny take on a serious problem. The movie is worth a trip to Baltimore if only to get a woman’s perspective on a male-dominated culture.