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Where Do We Go Now?

DIRECTED BY NADINE LABAKI

Contrary to Karl Marx’s famous dictum, hash-laced baked goods are the opiate of the masses in Nadine Labaki’s cartoonishly broad quasi-musical, Where Do We Go Now?, the surprise winner of the Cadillac People’s Choice Award at TIFF ’11.

Religion, in contrast, is a potent irritant for the inhabitants of an isolated, unnamed Middle-Eastern village. Initially, the townspeople—all either devoutly Christian or Muslim—manage to cohabit in peace, until news of sectarian violence in surrounding regions provokes a series of farcical misunderstandings. Seemingly inspired by mutual religious intolerance, these events, in turn, give rise to increasingly sacrilegious reprisals among the suddenly senseless, belligerent menfolk.

Possessed of cooler, more cunning heads, the women hatch a collective scheme to heal the widening rift, involving a troupe of Ukrainian showgirls and, yes, lots and lots of hash. While these ingredients might make for a dynamite half hour of South Park, at 100 minutes, Labaki’s feature begins to bludgeon you with its facile theses: religious violence is asinine, we’re all the same on the inside, men are hot-headed dumb-dumbs. Add problematic shifts in tone, flat characterization, and an aimless inter-faith romantic subplot, and you’ve got a muddled if well-meaning misfire.

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