The bittersweet comedy “Where Do We Go Now?” ( Lebanon’s top-grossing Arabic-language film and its official 2012 Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film, ) focuses on a centralized Lebanese village separated by a gorge from the nearest highway. Ever-so conveniently the film’s World is ringed by land mines left from earlier conflicts and houses an uneasy group of Christians and Musllims.
A rift and separation establishes the central conflict of the movie and plays out visually throughout in ways large and small. Two teenage boys, Roukoz (Ali Haidar) and Nassim (Kevin Abboud) provide the town’s only outreach beyond the gorge via a barely-running Vespa scooter used to carry provisions in and out of the dusty village, and a makeshift satellite antenna for radios. But it doesn’t need to be a news report that prompts the men of the village to start fighting among themselves - they can take care of that at the drop of a dime.
Director Nadine Labaki has created a film where the world is actually not divided between Muslim and Christian, but between male and female. There’s a strong feminist theme in “Where Do We Go Now?” and more than anything its matriarchal by giving way to reminisce of the Greek tale “Lysistrata”. The women go to great lengths to keep the men ignorant of war events, stage petty conflicts, hide weapons and even importing a traveling troupe of Eastern European dancers to distract and occupy the men. Additionally, the village’s key women have detailed personalities while the men are generally more generic, distinguished largely by their social or story roles; None of them are drawn in close detail.
What the film does lack in specificity (both in locale and war), the audience is treated with style and emotionally-drawn performances. Key moments come from the motherly Claude Baz Moussawbaa, Yvonne Maalouf as the dignity-driven mayor’s wife and Labiki herself portrays a steadfast Cafe owner who navigate wonderfully between this film’s microcosmic drab setting and the dramatic/comedy/bittersweet line of the human experience - by far Moussawbaa gives one of the best and more intense monologued scenes in 2012. That being said, “Where Do We Go Now?” still has some work to do to help its audience through some of its more absurdist behavior - mainly some Bollywood musical numbers and some pacing issues toward the end of the First Act but all-in-all a slow burn of cinematic fulfillment.
And for the Coffee….
May I present to you - Metropolis La Cordillera.
La Cordillera is a mountain range running through South and Central America, and some of the world’s best washed coffees grow. With flavors of toffee and pecan, with a stone fruit’s acidity. This roast makes for a is a terrific breakfast blend.
Coffee Rating: C