by Charlie Brewer
Where Do We Go Now is the story of a small Lebanese village threatened by Christian-Muslim conflicts. The village is unnamed. The time is unspecified. It could be anywhere, anytime The men in the isolated village get along well with one another, until they get wind of the international conflicts between their faiths. Once they do, they are immediately split by religion despite the protests from their respective religious leaders. Their wives are tired and scared of the effects of their rage on their village, and do their damnedest to ensure the harmony and, in turn, their safety from one another. Director, co-writer, and star Nadine Labaki crafts a beautiful homage to the strength and cunning of the often underestimated and under appreciated Middle Eastern woman. All at once, she displays to her audience the crippling effects of reality, the joyful camaraderie of a musical, and the ups and downs of a forbidden romance. All of these ideas are connected by one single conflict, showcasing just how imperative it is to comprehend the effects of religious prejudice. Where Do We Go Now blurs the line between fictional characters and reality, inspiring its audience to take the lessons it teaches and apply them to their lives.
This film serves to inspire young women around the world because it was created by, for, and about women. It showcases the female gender in an entirely different light: yes, the women of the village are the traditional mothers and wives, but insists that those same women are intelligent, complex, raw characters that are often taken for granted. When this movie began with a group of women crying over their late husbands and sons, I reluctantly settled in for another male-dominated war movie about Courage in the Face of Adversity. Then the women began a
slow, heavy dance in time with one another. All at once, it was about the wives’ grief, the story less told but no less painful. It is clear from the first scene that this is no story we’ve been told before, zeroing in on the fact that the same women crying for the men they lost are completely their own beings, independent and strong and even manipulative in their own right. The husbands become the simplistic one-track minded characters, and the audience receives a much-needed insight into the minds of the loving wife and mother. The women effortlessly put aside their differences in religion in favor of the well-being of the village, manipulating their husbands like puppet masters. They are clever, cunning, loving, emotional, strong, weak, hateful, broken, and whole, all in one. For once, we are shown a complex, well-written hero in the form of the dowdy middle-aged mother. This film proves that anyone can be a hero, and that everyone – especially your mother – is one.
Every time I watch this film, I notice something new. I laugh. I cry. I call my mother. I learn. The making of this movie was not about gains, about fame, about money; instead of it was about sending a message that everyone can understand. This movie is art, because it disturbs the comfortable and comforts the disturbed. Both sides are affected, both sides respond, and both sides blame the other for negative reactions. It is here that developing the wives, characters becomes even more imperative, because they are in the middle of the issue. As an American, it is fascinating to examine the conflict that our nation barely makes an effort to understand through the lense of a character we can all connect to. This film, with its story and its characters and its creators, inspires me to be the director, the creator, the artist I want to be.
Image Source: http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/hammerandthump/interview-nadine-labaki-director-co-writer-and-star-of-where-do-we-go-now/