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Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for thematic drug material, some sensuality and violent images)
Directed By
Nadine Labaki
Run Time
1 hour 50 minutes
Cast
Claude Baz Moussawbaa, Leyla Hakim, Nadine Labaki, Yvonne Maalouf
Theatre Release
September 14, 2011 by Sony Pictures Classics

Outside a small, dusty village in Lebanon, a few teens with an old-fashioned boom box are climbing the hills, trying to find a place where they can get good reception; their home town is so isolated that news from the outside world is an occasional thing. Only a narrow, badly-maintained bridge connects them with the surrounding countryside, and it is surrounded by land mines that were planted long ago and never removed. Yet it's worth it to take that risk sometimes, if they can find a signal.

Suddenly there's a blast, and the kids immediately fall to the ground. It's not one of them, though; we don't see the victim until an old shepherd later comes through the village with his treasure draped over his shoulders. "Is that Brigitte?" asks Afaf, the widow who runs the village shop. Yes, Abu Ali sadly replies, "It's Brigitte, the one that never knew love."

Nadine Labaki as Amale

Nadine Labaki as Amale

At dusk a few hours later, the community is gathered on the hilltop, sitting in rows of chairs borrowed from the Catholic church and eagerly waiting to watch some TV. As the rotund mayor welcomes the crowd, he addresses Abu Ali in particular: "Brigitte did not die in vain. She sacrificed herself for us. Sacrificed her body! Any one of us here could have met the same fate. And remember, only the goat on the right is halal [permissible]." Brigitte the goat is turning on a spit, a nice toasty brown, and Abu Ali mutters to himself, tragically, "All I can say is bon appétit."

That gives you a taste of the wry humor you'll find in Where Do We Go Now?, an ensemble film in which an assortment of odd and interesting (and often very funny) characters, crammed together in an isolated town, try to find a way to get along without killing each other. Those words should be taken with some literalness, for men have killed each other all too often in Lebanon. The women, in particular, know that; the title sequence shows a couple of dozen village women, all dressed in black, going in procession to the cemetery to clean and adorn the gravestones. There are actually two cemeteries, on either side of the dirt road, with crosses on the left and crescents on the right. Many of the graves are topped with framed photographs of young men.

Amale has a crush on Rabih (Julien Farhat)

Amale has a crush on Rabih (Julien Farhat)

The village is a peaceful spot, mostly; residents have a long tradition of getting along despite their different beliefs, and the mosque is separated from the church by only one building. The priest and imam confer together about the community that unites both flocks; it's not unusual for the priest to open the curtain in the confessional and find the imam there, with some pastoral situation they need to discuss.

The central character in the story is Amale, a young widow who runs the café where the villagers pass the time. She's a Christian (the only church in town is Maronite Catholic), but can't help glancing at Rabih, the handsome Muslim she's hired to sand and paint the room. Muslim and Christian women, sitting and gossiping together, banter with each other about which of them—Amale or Rabih—should convert, so the romance can finally get underway.

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