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Where Do We Go Now? (2011)

J.A.A. Purves

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Film Journal International -

When Nadine Labaki’s Caramel was released in 2007, the film was one of the few Lebanese exports not centered on war. It is a topic difficult to ignore in Lebanon; for nearly half of the past 37 years, and all of Labaki’s childhood, the country was engaged in civil war or wars with Israel. Now, a year after the assassination of its Sunni president, Lebanon is again poised for sectarian violence. In Where Do We Go Now?, Labaki’s second narrative feature, the writer-director gently enters the fray, but not by tracing the complex divisions among Lebanon’s Muslim majority. Instead, she portrays a conflict unique to Lebanon, the only Arab country in which 40 percent of the population is Christian ...

While the plot of Where Do We Go Now? springs from a gender divide, Labaki carefully accentuates the village’s long history of strife and Lebanese society’s ingrained patterns of violence, so that blame does not fall on the men alone. She dedicates her movie to “our mothers,” yet rather than a feminist, she is a humanist. Where Do We Go Now?, whose title is inspired by the village’s final conundrum, can be perceived as an anti-war film, although that label oversimplifies the writer-director’s intent. Labaki is calling for a sea change, an overhaul of Lebanese identity. In the end, when the female characters finally discard much of what defines them, essentially severing family ties and generations of memory, along with their grief, they commit a revolutionary act ...

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