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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.
Unlike the first two films in the wildly popular cinematic adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ young-adult novels, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I –the first instalment of a two-piece finale – is an underwhelming and slightly hollow watch.
Mockingjay Part I begins shortly after the end of Catching Fire, which saw Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) pulled out and rescued from the games by game-maker, Plutarch Heavensbee (Hoffman), and mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (Harrelson).
Brought underground and aided by the District 13 rebels – led by President Alma Coin (Moore) – Katniss is asked to serve as the face of the growing revolt against President Snow and his tyranny over Panem. However, getting the young-rebel on board is not easy, as Katniss – whose beloved home district was levelled by Snow’s bombers in the previous instalment – is still trying to overcome the loss of her fellow District 12 champion, Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson), who has now become a prisoner of the Capitol.
Desperate to bring Peeta back to safety, Katniss soon agrees to become the ‘Mockingjay’ and operate as a symbol of hope and resistance for the people of Panem.
Just like Harry Potter and Twilight – other similarly structured franchises that have split the big finale into two or three parts – Mockingjay Part 1 feels abrupt. Granted, it’s unfair to judge a two-part film as, essentially, one arc is running through both, but a film released on its own can only be watched on its own and this first part spends its two-hour-plus running time setting up the pieces of the puzzle and building up the story with no payoff.
This is somewhat remedied by returning director Francis Lawrence’s focus on big battle scenes, though once again, there’s no real payoff, no punch-line.
One thing that won’t be put into question is another engaging, emotional and an overall solid performance from Oscar-winning actress, Jennifer Lawrence, who manages to keep the story kicking, regardless of its awkward pacing. Other returning faces, which included Hoffman, Harrelson, Hutcherson and Banks, are all equally reliable and, as the determined President Snow, Sutherland is once again a strong and a dependable villain.
Based on Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel of the same name and directed by the truly great Mr. David Fincher, Gone Girl, a delightfully engrossing and terribly disturbing tale of marriage, love and lies has emerged as one of the best psychological thrillers in years.
Set in a quiet town in the state of Missouri, the story is centred on Nick (Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Pike); a married couple who have shared a relatively happy life for over five years. That is until one day, Nick returns home to discover that their home has been vandalised and that Amy has mysteriously disappeared.
The case is taken up by Detective Boney (Dickens) and Officer Gilpin (Fugit) and the search for Amy catches the attention of the media, who immediately paint Nick as being the number one suspect.
With the media and the police all over him, he decides to hire renowned legal defence attorney, Tanner Bolt (Perry), who might be able to help him clear his name. However, if he is as innocent as he says he is, why does he need a lawyer if he doesn’t have anything to hide?
If you haven’t read Gillian Flynn’s novel and you’re unfamiliar with the story then you’re probably better off not reading the plot; the less you know about it, the better. What you do need to know, however, is that manipulation, deceit and desperation are the key themes explored here and in true Fincher fashion, nothing is as it seems and no one is who they say they are. Amusingly, there’s plenty of dry-humour to be found hidden underneath all of its layers and facades as well as a few implicit stabs at the media and all of its excessive meddling and unwarranted exploitations.
Affleck is almost perfect as the grieving husband who you don’t know whether to console or scold; his quiet and innocent demeanour is key and he manages to keep the aura of mystery all the way throughout. As his missing wife, Pike is equally affecting and her lingering and enigmatic presence is definitely deserving of the same amount of praise, if not more.
In the end, Gone Girl is a must-see; provocative, smart and incredibly engaging, this is Fincher - the man who bought us Fight Club, Se7en and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – at his best.