Saturday, 23 June 2012
FILM REVIEW: WHERE DO WE GO NOW?
Blessed are the peacemakers. And the homemakers for that matter, who, in director Nadine Labaki's Where Do We Go Now?, are one and the same.
In a remote village in Lebanon, where Muslims and Christians live side by side, and for the most part peacefully, the women folk work tirelessly to keep it that way; ensuring the men folk don't follow the lead of their city counterparts and go to war.
That means concerted efforts to hide all media reports about political events in other parts of the country and covering up any local infractions, be it letting livestock into the mosque or desecrating a statue of the Virgin Mary.
But when tensions begin to escalate, they decide the best way to extinguish the flames of hatred are by firing up their men's loins. The women pitch in to hire a travelling Russian "burlesque" troupe (who alight from a bus a la Priscilla, only less attractive), with the aim of keeping the men's blood from boiling over by diverting it to other parts of their bodies.
All of the village women's actions aren't necessarily condoned by either the Imam or the priest, but the two elder statesmen happily turn a blind eye in the name of peace.
Where Do We Go Now? is part comedy, part drama and part faux musical, often swinging wildly between the three and, much like the Christians and Muslims, not always successfully despite everyone's best efforts.
A tragedy which occurs in the second half will almost certainly obliterate the women's peace process if the men find out, is truly upsetting yet the mother chooses to put her grief on hold for the good of the village. Conversely, when violence seems almost inevitable, the women decide to drug the men with hash cookies, accompanied by a song (one of three in the film) which I've never heard sung in the MasterChef kitchen.
These elements may not always work seamlessly together, but Labaki, who plays the town beauty, the Christian shopkeeper, Amale, has invested her film -- and her characters -- with so much heart and good will that it seems almost churlish to complain.
Where Do We Go Now? won the audience award at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and you can understand why. Just like peace, I'd suggest you give the film a chance.