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“Where Do We Go Now?” and Why it Matters

Good movies are full of action, drama, comedy, suspense, music, even better, all of the above. But great movies are those that hold relevant value and force the viewer to think about the world around them. Under these notions, the movie I believe is best for everyone to watch is a bit off the beaten path –it isn’t a blockbuster summer hit, but an independent Lebanese film that saw its debut at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. “Where Do We Go Now?” is a drama- comedy about the Lebanese Civil War. This may sound like a very particular movie, one that wouldn’t have much to do with our own American community. But the movie’s plot and its lessons touch very close to home, and it is hard not to take this movie seriously for its value.

“Where Do We Go Now?” takes place in an unnamed Lebanese village. Christians and Muslims make up the population, and despite their differences, the villagers generally get along. The movie opens up with a group of boys looking for satellite service, as they are trying to set up the village’s only television. Watching T.V. becomes a community event, but in an instant, the T.V. in turn becomes a source of conflict. Outside the village, civil war has devastated the country. The Lebanese Civil war lasted from 1975-1990 and was heavily surrounded around the country’s various religious sects. Prior to access to media, the film’s village was seemingly unaffected by the war. But as reports of the war spill in, the men in the village become hostile towards one another and begin fighting along sectarian lines. Random instances immediately get blown out of proportion and the men start accusing one another of evil intentions. At one point, a young man delivering goods back to the village is shot on the way home. The women try to hide what happened for as long as they can, because they fear the Christian and Muslim men will again blame each other and escalate the situation.

In the comedic spirit of ancient Greek poet Aristophanes’ play Lysistrata, where Greek women highlight the asininity of Greek men waging war on each other and remedy the situation, the women of this Lebanese village likewise take things into their own hands. While the film deals with the dark implications of deadly war, the movie offers some comedic relief when the women try to quell the growing holy war between the men. The women hire a group of strippers to distract the men, they try to drug them and hide their guns, and they try to destroy the T.V., which they see as the root of the problem. But nothing works. The women finally decide on a solution, one that will challenge the very doctrine of the clash between the men. The women swap religions –the Muslim women become Christians, the Christians Muslims. If their husbands and sons insist on sectarian violence, they must now deal with the fact that their wives and sisters are the enemy. The women’s act of resistance thwarts the warring amongst the village’s men. Eventually, the men come to terms with the fact that they allowed paranoia of the ongoing war to ruin the community’s relationship. In the last scene, from which the movie borrows its title, the film’s lesson is driven home. The men, who have at this point mended their relationships, carry the body of the young man who had been shot to the village cemetery, which is segregated by religion. The young man’s mother had spearheaded the plot that ended the warring, so the men stare at both sides of the cemetery, confused as to where the boy will be laid to rest. They break the fourth wall, asking the audience, “Where do we go now?”

It goes without saying why this film is relevant. Media causes paranoia, as religious intolerance and male belligerence fuel the fire. This film shows how easy it is to repeat history and how people often fall into traps that lead to conflict. Even today, people allow their opinions to be shaped by conflict, forgetting to think for themselves. The media plays a huge role in our lives, and people don’t bother to step outside of their comfort zones to create their own image of the world around us. This film exemplifies why it is so important to understand issues like these, and at a time like this everyone in our society should reflect on the message in this movie.

 

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