Director Nadine Labaki's Where Do We Go Now? is a darkly comic and provocative riff on the suggestion that if women ruled the world, war would be a thing of the past.
The film is set in a charming yet remote Lebanese village where Christians and Muslims get along swimmingly, thanks largely to the town's women, whose shared sense of sisterhood has been a model of neighborliness to their occasionally quick-tempered husbands and sons. Every night, the villagers gather atop a rocky hill, the only place where the one decent television gets reception. At this makeshift cinema, their differences are quelled by shared laughter, and the medium truly becomes the message.
When the women hear about an outlying village where similar religious differences have seriously deteriorated, they strenuously attempt to hide the news from the menfolk. Newspapers go missing and a breaking news report about the skirmish pops on during one of their t.v. nights, which the women drown out by staging a series of feigned petty arguments. Despite their efforts, a couple of accidents at the local church and mosque are misinterpreted, puncturing the town's delicate calm.
The film is a bit long and never gets a handle on a side-plot about a broken down bus populated with Ukrainian strippers - it seems from a different, less fulfilling movie. But there are little moments where Labaki's artistic eye enriches the movie beyond its faults. And the opening scene is thrilling. As the female villagers, all dressed in black, make a sojourn to the town cemetery, they suddenly break out into a reflective dance that could be an outtake from Pina, Wim Wender's brilliant documentary about the avant-garde choreographer Pina Bausch.