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Where Do We Go Now?: Light but Profound Film on Religious Sectarianism
This film tells the story of a small village in Lebanon around the turn of this century. Their only connection to the outside world is through a treacherous walk over a rickety stone bridge and they barely have access to television and radio reception. The whole village relies on two boys who frequently make the trek over to the nearest town on an old scooter, running errands and supplying the villagers with newspapers, clothes and other bits and pieces. Despite their near-total isolation, the religious sectarian violence affecting Lebanon as a whole manages to filter in, disturbing the villagers’ peaceful coexistence.
Where Do We Go Now? explores the women’s often comical attempts at keeping the peace in their village. They employ different strategies to keep the men distracted from the news thus protecting their village and families from unnecessary bloodshed.
The film’s opening scene is of a procession of women clad wholly in black, some with covered hair the others carrying crosses, making their way to the cemetery that is divided into two based on faith.
The women come as one, split off according to religion then engage in the exact same acts, mourning and grieving their loved ones, of which there are many and all of whom are men. It’s a very powerful scene that sets up the film perfectly. It asserts that shared experiences can be more powerful than shared faith and that believing in different religions doesn’t make people fundamentally different.
Now this is how you tackle a serious, highly relevant subject without preaching. This is also how you successfully, and more importantly respectfully, portray female relationships. Where Do We Go Now? gives us what is practically a war story, from the point of view of the women. War is erupting between Muslims and Christians all over Lebanon, and the women of the village are hell bent on preventing intolerant, hateful sentiments from taking root in their home despite the fact that the men are becoming exceedingly volatile. And before the words ‘war story’ send anybody off running, the film is not gory in the slightest nor does it revel in any form of brutality. In fact, the closest it gets to a physical depiction of war is the odd fistfight.
Director Labaki’s touch is all over the film and to anyone who’s seen her debut, Caramel, this is highly apparent. She excels at portraying multilayered female relationships and dealing with the interaction between people in general. The film is at its strongest when the women are figuring out a solution to their community’s problem. On the other hand, the film lacks the same emotional punch when the focus shifts to personal problems.
In general though, the film seems effortless. The strength of the characters’ relationships make the events flow very organically, succeeding in subtly showing the film’s message and side stepping any preaching. Even more impressively, the film’s cohesiveness isn’t interrupted in the slightest during the two musical interludes where the characters burst into song. It also helps that the songs are thoroughly charming and in fact the score as a whole is pretty gorgeous and fits the film perfectly. The acting is spot on and the women have a lived-in feel that really sells the story. Their relationships feel very genuine and they play off of each other perfectly; especially when they’re joking around and devising outlandish schemes to keep the guys distracted.
Where Do We Go Now? is a great, distinctly Arab film in that it deftly blends tragedy, comedy, melodrama and musical interludes. It tackles a really difficult subject, yet it is perfectly balanced as a light, crowd pleaser with an important and relevant, if rather simplistic, message.
Sinister looking children’s toys – dolls and puppets in particular – are a common feature of many a horror film, often somehow possessing dark demonic powers. Annabelle, the latest horror of such kind and the prequel/spin-off to the last year’s summer hit, The Conjuring, unfortunately is rather dull.
Directed by John R. Leonetti – of The Conjuring, Sinister and The Mask fame – and written by Gary Dauberman, Annabelle is set in the early 1970s and follows Mia (Wallis) and John Gordon (Horton); a young married couple living in Santa Monica, who are expecting their first child.
One night, their next-door neighbours are killed as a result of a satanic cult home-invasion job. Unfortunately, the drama doesn’t end there and they soon end up victims of a similar crime, but after a certain amount of struggle – and blood spilled – the couple manages to come out alive.
Soon after their traumatic ordeal, their home – that they’ve grown to love and care for – begins to suffer a series of supernatural occurrences and after it becomes a little too much to handle, they decide that it’s best to move. Unfortunately, trouble follows them to their new home and John and Mia soon realise that Mia’s prized collector’s doll might have something to do with it all.
Annabelle starts off strong, with Leonetti and Dauberman weaving a decent amount of tension and suspense into the opening. However, although, their ideas are relatively solid – and some of the scares genuinely frightening – the plot soon become repetitive and what little novelty the premise has wears off pretty darn soon.
In terms of performances, both Wallis and Horton managed to sustain a good amount of chemistry; however, their characters – just like the story – aren’t formed well enough to form a connection with the audience.
Riddled with clichés and familiar formulas, Annabelle is little more than an attempt to cash-in on the success of its much more convincing and entertaining predecessor.
Most actors and directors will tell you that tackling a biopic is no easy task. The portrayal of any iconic figure – loved or hated – comes with pitfalls and any filmmaker faces an uphill struggle before the first scene is even filmed.
Such is the case with Diana; a biopic detailing the most tumultuous times of the late Princess Diana that ultimately fails to match the splendour and majesty of one of the most influential figures of the 20th century.
Based on Kate Snell’s book, Diana: Her Last Love, the story opens on that ill-fated night in Paris in 1997 with Princess Diana (Watts) walking down a hallway towards a waiting elevator – recorded by the hotel’s CCTV cameras – before heading out and climbing into a waiting car.
The events then rewind back to two years before the tragic death, with Princess Di finding herself drowning in bad publicity, following her separation from Prince Charles. The once media-darling struggles to keep her private life away from the public eye and bloodthirsty paparazzi.
She soon finds comfort in British born- Pakistani heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan (Andrews), whom she meets during a hospital visit. Diana is instantly besotted and she quickly begins pursuing the sweet-talking doctor who is, naturally, flabbergasted by her interest in him.
Their relationship is soon splashed all over the media and the immense pressure of it all becomes a too difficult for Hasnat to handle. Trying to balance his now highly-publicised love affair with one of the most influential women on the planet and the disapproval of his family in Pakistan soon drives Diana away and into the arms of one Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar) as more drama ensues.
Two-time academy-award nominated actress, Naomi Watts, tries her best to bring authenticity to the monumentally tricky role and, to her credit, succeeds in some parts. That aura of vulnerability, that soft-spoken voice and the all too famous shy gaze beneath those long lashes is captured wonderfully; however, anything else that may have been buried deep beyond the façade is never fully explored.
Meanwhile, Andrews – of Lost fame – looks like he may have bitten more than he can chew; aimless and ineffectual pretty much the whole way through, he manages to overstate his every move and that spark of chemistry – which initially brought these two lovebirds together – is never really felt on screen.
Directed by Oliver Hirchbiegel, this could have been a heart-rending tale of one of the most beloved figures of our time. Instead, it fails to really utilise the endless well of inspiration that is impossible love.
Diana never truly grabs your attention; it’s ultimately uninteresting, unexciting and a little too inclined to the haziness of a soap opera.