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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.
The story of legendary fictional traveller and shipwreck survivor Robinson Crusoe, has received colourful 3D animated treatment in The Wild Life; a cheery, if not a little bland, story of an unlikely friendship told with a decent amount of energy. The film follows the basic plot of Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel, The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, but tells the story from the view of the animals.
The story is mostly narrated by a bright red and exceptionally chatty parrot named Mak (voiced by Howard), who dreams of one day leaving the seemingly magical and tropical paradise island in order to see what else is out there. His fellow islanders – an exotic mix of species including a goat named Scrubby (Camen), a curvy blueberry tapir named Rosie (Berzins) and super slick chameleon called Carmello (Metzger) – however, are not so worried about venturing beyond the edges of the island, content with their peaceful existence and their abundant supply of food.
Things soon take a surprising turn, when Crusoe’s ship smashes onto their shores and while all of the other animals are cautious in their approach to the seemingly clumsy and lanky ginger-haired man – and spend most of their time observing him and his loyal dog companion from a safe distance - Mak is a little more forthcoming and sees Crusoe as his ticket out of there. Realising that they are his only way of survival, Crusoe befriends his new animal buddies while the arrival of two savage cats poses a threat to them all.
Framing the story so that it is told entirely from the perspective of the animals, rather than through the eyes of Crusoe, definitely provides an interesting twist onto this old tale which is undoubtedly mostly unknown to the movie’s young target audience. The animation – although nowhere near as sophisticated as Disney or Pixar - is easy on the eye and co-directors Vincent Kesteloot and Ben Stassen – who previously worked together on A Turtle’s Tale : Sammy’s Escape From Paradise – infuse the story with plenty of colour and engrossing 3D imagery.
The difficulties, however, come with the excess amount of characters present in the storyline and their various accents – ranging from Scottish to Australian – which can get a little distracting at times, while the actual dialogue spoken could have done with a bit more imagination and oomph. Nevertheless, The Wild Life is still a relatively entertaining animated adventure of a famous adventurer which the youngsters will happily eat up.
Based on Robert Kanigel’s 1991 book of the same name, the earnest but somewhat sluggish biopic of Srinavasa Ramanujan, a self-taught mathematical wizard who traveled from India to England to work with esteemed mathematician G.H Hardy in 1914, is a surprisingly distant and uninvolving film.
The story begins in India, with the twenty-something math prodigy Ramanujan (Patel) and his young wife, Janaki (Bhise) – apparently his real-life wife was only ten years old when they got married - working as a shipping clerk for an arrogant boss, Sir Francis Spring (Fry).
His passion for numbers is very clear as we watch the young virtuosi constantly obsessed with scribbling down numbers in a notebook and in chalk on a temple floor, trying to make sense of the information that seems to be flooding through him.
Finally building up the courage to send in his work to Trinity College, Cambridge Professor, G.H Hardy (the always game Mr. Jeremy Irons), Ramanujan’s life soon takes a drastic turn when he receives an invitation to come out to England and prove his theories.
But upon his arrival, Ramanujan is met with a great deal of skepticism and prejudice – tensions heighten as the First World War approaches – with only the bond between him and the seemingly awestruck professor, keeping him in check.
Written and directed by Matt Brown – see Ropewalk - it’s seemingly hard to convey the science and passion of numbers in a way that a movie-going crowd can understand and connect to.
The visual portrayal and understanding of a subject of this kind is usually accompanied by a sub-plot and a story which eventually brings us closer to the protagonist – Matt Damon’s sessions with Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting come to mind. However, The Man Who Knew Infinity, although relatively engaging, never really moves past the facts - which do get a little too confusing to follow at times- and ultimately fail to invite the viewers into its intricate world of numbers.
Despite the story’s flaws, the onscreen pairing of Irons and Patel strikes a positive note within the production, with the Slumdog Millionaire star just about managing to stay afloat whilst Irons is sublime as the socially inept professor who is quick to form a bond with the young wiz.
For a film attempting to highlight the life and work of someone whose importance in the mathematical world still resonates until today; The Man Who Knew Infinity is a disappointing production. An intriguing story with interesting characters, but with very little soul or passion to deliver its point and importance across.