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With Jim Sabatini

Where Do We Go Now

Where Do We Go Now
Nadine Labaki, Leyla Hakim, Yvonne Maalouf and Claude Baz Moussawbaa

Rated: PG-13 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: May 11, 2012 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics

This French-Egyptian-Lebanese production is an ambitious second film by writer-director-actor Nadine Labaki who works admirably to find levity from Middle Eastern turmoil.
In Where Do We Go Now? (almost entirely in Arabic with subtitles) Labaki, from war-torn Lebanon, uses a remote village as her setting with an encroaching threat of religious violence to upset the peace of  Christians and Muslims who coexist after an earlier battle. In a way, how she modulates the proceedings with many characters to follow may carry more weight as her tale hinges on the ladies finding diversions to keep their men from turning bellicose again. Some may recall what the distaff side did way back in Aristophanes' time to make the guys think twice.
What a somber funeral procession becomes goes to show the intent of where pathos and ethos can cross as a dance routine ensues. The film's last image may hit harder because of the lighthearted fantasy (serviced by many musical interludes, one amusingly featuring hashish) to offer up a fairly moving, mostly unsentimental cinematic sermon.
The attractive Labaki provides a role for herself as cafe entrepreneur Amale, while some other characters make impressions. There's a snappy neighbor, Afaf, nicely done by Leyla Hakim; a wry Yvonne Maalouf as a Mayor's misses who makes the most of a holy illusion in contrast with a wrenching Claude Baz Moussawbaa as the grieving mother of a son downed in accidental gunplay. The creativeness of Labaki includes how she incorporates many locals into her cast while interspersing some original songs by Khaled Mouzanar.
Those the diagrammatic script (collaborated on by Labaki) may not be smoothed out enough for some folks liking, it has burst of humorous dialogue with a darkly recurring gag involving an adored goat and a land mine. Some enjoyment will also be had with the unexpected arrival of  Ukrainian exotic dancers in the village after a freak bus accident.

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