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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.
Sinking the already-shaky horror-genre deeper into further oblivion, Ouija – based on a popular spirit-summoning board-game from the 1890’s – is, unfortunately, nothing to get excited about.
Written and directed by Stiles White – along with the penning support of Juliet Snowden – the story is centred on best friends, Laine (Cooke) and Debbie (Henning), who, ever since they were young girls, loved to indulge in a childish and seemingly harmless play using the Ouija board.
Several years later, however, Laine is shocked to learn that Debbie has killed herself and even more surprised to learn that – after visiting her home – that there is evidence of Debbie playing with the Ouija board all by herself; a big no-no in the world of spirits and magic. In order to get to resolve the mystery surrounding her death, Laine calls upon the help of her sister, Sarah (Coto), friend, Trevor, (Kagasoff) and Debbie’s boyfriend, Pete (Smith), to play with the Ouija board and summon Debbie’s spirit.
However, things turn upside down when they accidentally end up summoning an evil spirit who, unlike Debbie, wishes to spread harm upon the group. Now, Laine, who brought everyone into this mess in the first place, needs to find a way to shut the portal - between earth and the life beyond - before it’s too late.
Although the idea of turning a popular board-game into a movie doesn’t sound all that ridiculous and the material seems generally interesting, there just isn’t enough imagination or character in Ouija to make it worthwhile. Lacking depth and character, the film relies a little bit too much on the jump-scare tactic and the lack of suspense and tension only adds to its weak attempt to create a frightening horror experience.
Adding salt to the wound, the characters are just as weak thanks to the poorly-scripted material. Cooke leads the way as the only character of note and the relatively new face won’t have harmed her future prospects. The rest of the cast, unfortunately, simply don’t register and ultimately fail to convey a single genuine emotion.
Ouija is tedious, unimaginative and seemingly uninterested in elaborating and expanding on its own source material.
Written and directed by David Ayer, Fury may come across as just another WWII story that has been told many times before, but there’s more to it than it meets the eye.
Set in April of 1945, the story centres on the final days of the war, just as the Allies and their forces have pushed the Germans back into their own land for one last fight. Having just returned to base from a long, drawn-out battle, Sgt. Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Pitt) and his loyal ‘Sherman’ tank crew, including Boyd Swan (LaBeouf), Grady Travis (Bernthal) and Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Pena), are mourn the death of their buddy, Red.
However, they're soon presented with his replacement in the form of Norman Ellison (Lerman); a young and a naïve clerk, who’s only been in the army for eight weeks and has never set foot on a battlefield, let alone operated heavy artillery. Naturally, the Sherman boys aren’t very keen on welcoming the fresh-faced soldier onboard.
Nevertheless, they all soon head onto the battleground to fight what is left of the Nazi forces and Norman’s inexperience, naivety and general apprehension of blood and war is soon put to the ultimate test.
There are over two hundred WWII Hollywood-made movies and although the genre has produced some truly memorable films over the years, the majority have failed to add anything new.
Enter David Ayer – the director and writer behind gems such as Training Day and End of Watch – who manages, ever so subtlety, to inject the story with plenty of essence. Extremely violent and grey, Fury – told mainly from within the confinement of a military tank – is explosive and full of anger – hence the title – however, it’s more peaceful and quieter moments that speak the loudest and the harshness of war and loss is felt throughout.
The onscreen chemistry between the loyal band of brothers keeps the film interesting. Pitt offers an engaging performance as a hard-worn sergeant, while LeBeouf, Bernthal and Pena round off the impressive cast with solid performances.
Similarly, Lerman, better known for his role in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, delivers the naivety and innocence of youth that the role demanded with aplomb.
While many will consider Fury to be of little significance in the large scope of war period dramas, it's very much the case that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. You won't see anything new here, but the film's heart and soul is largely owed to its central characters and a director who knows how to tell a story.