Brendan Kergin, Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω
The Kamloops Film Society entered its 40th season with a drama/comedy (and at times musical) taking a very serious subject and humanizing it in a unique way.
Where Do We Go Now? has won multiple film festival awards, including the 2011 Toronto Film Festival People’s Choice Award and there’s a reason for the critical popularity. It’s a charmer with a heart.
The film takes place in a small town and begins by showing a slice of life in the village. This is a village in Lebanon, a country which has known war and violence with a 15-year civil war ending in 1990. The war and its repercussions are an important history to know going in, especially the divide between the followers of Christianity and Islam.
The small village is surrounded by mines, cut off from the rest of the 21st century by a partially broken bridge, which very few citizens dare cross, partly because they don’t really need to. Two cousins make regular trips out to a larger town nearby for goods. They are also able to set up a TV and radio, which are the only sources of broadcast media for entertainment in the village.
The plot revolves around the moderately cut-off villagers as religious tensions rise in other parts of the country. They live in relative peace, though families from both sides lost members in the civil war. As rumour of violence begins in other places, those old wounds open up and that’s where the story gains it’s heart. While town life is going on it’s fun, with quick wit and character building.
The men and women react to the reports differently. The men start to eye those with a different religion as dangerous others. The women, having gotten along famously with their counterparts and lost sons and husbands to the war, look to distract the men from the feud with a variety of more outrageous and hilarious schemes, from breaking the TV to hiring Russian belly dancers.
This is how the film takes a different look at war and religious violence. The women are desperate to hide the outside conflict from the men. The villagers have lost many loved ones due to the civil war and don’t want to relive the pain. The possible tragedy would be compounded by the fact the men who would be fighting grew up and live in the same village.
The film takes the audience into the warm heart of a village, just about destroys everything with violence, fear and hate and pulls us out again with some hope. Unfortunately, large-scale violence can’t be beaten back with good baking and hash, but it does give some hope that old fear and hate can be patched up if people look at it in a rational and more personal sense.
The ensemble cast works well together, from the squabbling group of women to the priest and imam (who regularly hang out together, side with the women and provide some of the best comedic scenes). At times there can be too many characters to keep track of, and, ironically, to a Canadian viewer, it can be difficult to tell who is Muslim and who is Christian until they explicitly say it or they get matched to a family member.
If you have any interest in life in the Middle East, Where Do We Go Now? probably captures a good glimpse of it in Lebanon. Despite being from a culture on the other side of the world, characters are relatable and the messages conveyed are easily understood.