Labaki locates what she calls her fairy tale and fable in a, small isolated village where the Muslim mosque and the Christian church sit next to each other. Most of the time, Muslim and Christian residents peacefully coexist, though conflicts in the surrounding area disrupt the relative tranquility. Land mines surround the village, and regular trips to secure supplies are dangerous, even deadly.
With the arrival of a television and news reports of fighting, with accidents in the church and the mosque causing problems, the women decide they must proactively work to keep the peace. They import exotic dancers, band together to cook mind-altering food, and devise other strategies.
Where Do We Go Now? begins and ends at the cemetery with some wild flights of fancy in between. In the riveting opening scene, the women wear exactly the same black dress and shoes and march ritualistically to the cemetery where the Muslims then turn to one side, the Christians to another. This profound image sums up the theme: grief unites them despite different religious beliefs.
While the topic is serious and the threat of death real, the episodic fable includes singing and dancing, amusing plotting, and an incredibly imaginative conclusion. Music and songs smooth the transitions through the shifts in tone, thanks to Nadine’s husband’s talent. And while this is a fairy tale, Labaki worked to ground it in reality. While the talented Labaki plays Christian Amal who runs a café and has eyes for Muslim Rabih, her handyman, most of the characters are not professional actors. They actually live in the Lebanese villages where the film was shot.
As far-fetched as some of the incidents are, real parallels often come to mind. Labaki has said she purposely does not name the country in order to indict all civil wars and the global conflicts over any demonized differences. She succeeds admirably in Where Do We Go Now?—as entertaining as it is thought provoking, a rare and wonderful combination. Primarily in Arabic with English subtitles. At a Landmark Theatre.