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Nadine Labaki, whom some might remember from her exuberant Caramel, has a strong individual voice. As both filmmaker and star, she tells of the dismantling of male power, but tackles the heartache with too much laughter – which doesn’t always gel...
WHERE DO WE GO NOW?
DIRECTOR: Nadine Labaki
CAST: Nadine Labaki, Leyla Fouad, Claude Msawbaa, Antoinette El-Noufaily
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
PG: 13 DLP
If you saw Caramel, you will remember the exuberance, the energy as well as the fresh take on movie-making coming out of Lebanon, a country that up to that point was telling stories of war and certainly not by women.
Nadine Labaki is a unique film-maker. She stars in, co-writes and directed her first movie and has done the same with this, her second effort, which has a much more serious voice than the earlier Caramel set in a hair salon, but also deals with the strength of women.
This time she speaks loudly for women, tackling men about their silly wars – in this instance using religion as the crutch. Lebanon, of course, is her starting point, but she’s reaching much wider.
She opens her film with a scene which plays like a Pina Bausch homage as a group of women, dressed in funereal black, are on their way to bury yet another victim of what they view as pain without any glory. The men move on, fighting their squabbles that have been going for centuries while the women suffer the loss of their families and agonising pain.
This is what she, Labaki, grapples with. Set in an isolated Lebanese village, she tells the story of the people, their hardship and their battle to survive, at the same time as killing one another because a Christian feels wronged by a Muslim, or vice versa.
All the fighting began when the villagers started watching tele- vision and reading the news. It’s as if someone from outside pushed and shoved them into the battles and now they can’t stop. It’s all about the fighting and the unwillingness to compromise, almost as if everyone is following a predestined course.
That’s not so, say the women, determined to bring about change. “Do you think we exist simply to mourn you?” one of them shouts at the men.
And that is exactly what the filmmaker is trying to explore – women’s part in their and their men’s lives… or do they simply exist as spectators.
It’s a dilemma, especially in certain parts of the world – such as Lebanon – where men rule the universe and anything that happens is often to the women’s detriment. It’s all about wealth and power, no matter the cost.
Women think differently, says Labaki, but sadly this time her lighter tone doesn’t quite do the trick. It’s difficult to marry two such extreme emotional issues.
She tries to tell her tale in almost farcical fashion but because she’s dealing in life and death issues, it doesn’t quite gel and comes across as a series of montages rather than a heartfelt tale.
Some work better than others but it makes it difficult to become part of the storytelling. It remains just that – a story put together in sketches.
Yet she has an interesting and quite extraordinary voice which is undeniable and a reason to watch her progress. Personally, I could watch it over and over again just for the opening, which is quite magnificent.
If you liked… Caramel or The Band’s Visit… you might like this one.