Where Do We Go Now?
Made me laugh!! Made me cry…
Can’t wait til it comes out in theaters on May 11th!
Below is a short paper I wrote for class. I do cover some of the things that happen in the film — but if you watch the trailer, there’s nothing I’m revealing. YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE!!!! 🙂
The foreign film, Where Do We Go Now?, was one of my favorite Sundance films – for the ways that it subverted, with great charm and humor, the violent ways of men. The incredible Nadine Labaki, co-writer, director, and lead actor, tells the story of a group of Lebanese women who have had enough of the deadly inter-religious conflicts between their Christian and Muslim husbands and sons. They are tired of wearing black and carrying flowers to the gravesites – where the Christian dead are buried on one side, and the Muslim dead on the other. What does it matter when they are all dead?
As tensions surface once again because of new violence in nearby villages, knowing their men will angrily react to this news, they begin their counter-insurrection. First they innocently dismantle the radio in the town pub. Then they rewire the village’s one television set by night. Using progressively more creative “feminine wiles” as the volatility of the situation rises, these women literally keep their men from killing one other.
Where Do We Go Now? says to its viewers that there is a deeper reality that already unites people across religious lines –that must be consciously remembered and acknowledged for humanity to live in peace. Life itself is exceedingly precious and must be preserved – even though people (symbolized through the village men) may take important things so seriously that they will fight, kill, and destroy others. The village women share a common humanity that unites them across religious lines. Though they, too, are Muslim and Christian, and do judge and disagree with each other from time to time, they are more fundamentally women and friends. They are tired of watching each other grieve. They agree that no religious beliefs, however strongly held, can warrant the bloodshed and murder of each others’ families.
So with unexpected levity and even lightness at times, they show the men that other things can unite them: their attraction to beautiful women, their enjoyment of a good party, and the rest. The women pool together money and overcome their religious and cultural conservatism to hire five fresh young ladies to come and distract their men with their beauty and very immodestly dressed bodies. With the additional element of tasty drinks and desserts mixed with plenty of hashish – the men are entirely too overcome to take up arms the next morning.
There is something more fundamental and basic to humanity than religious difference, and Where Do We Go Now? would seem to say that it is a more base nature, the simple acknowledgement that we are mere flesh and driven by our desires and urges. It would also say that we are men and women before we are people of faith. Perhaps, if we were to recognize our shared humanity and take ourselves less seriously, realizing that we would fundamentally rather all live than all die, many of our conflicts could be defanged, denatured, and transformed.
In light of the dialogue between Karl Barth and Emil Brunner in Natural Theology, I would argue that this film resonates deeply with Brunner’s perspective that the general and preserving grace of God is there so we have “life, health, strength” (28) and are enabled to “[live] by the grace of God” (28) even if we know it not. Our point of contact in sharing the imago Dei brings forth a radical equality and worth for all humanity – regardless of our awareness of or acknowledgement of our Creator. The village women constantly embody these truths in their behavior and care for one another. It doesn’t matter that you are Muslim and I am Christian; we must come together to keep our men from killing each other.
Barth’s perspective that man’s core nature has “despair [as] the ‘fundamental condition’ of existence” (113) also resonates as an accurate depiction of what happens when men are left to their own devices: murderous destruction and despair are brought upon their communities. When Barth says that this “‘natural’ knowledge of God” leaves man “without excuse” and under God’s judgment – in this case wrought through women! – this rings true in the film.
At the same time, to fully respond theologically to all that is depicted in this film, while trying not to betray its conclusion, how should we consider the women’s final act of subversion, which gives rise to the title of the film? Where do we go after agreeing upon our common humanity? What do we do with our specific religious beliefs and traditions? Where do we bury our dead?
I wonder if this film gives us just enough to go on to begin to address our geo-political realities – although it leaves open the reality that learning to “love thy neighbor” doesn’t solve the problem of the exclusivity of Christ in the Christian tradition and ultimate truth claims. Its subtle message seems to be that we may not have the actual means to resolve that matter as mere humans. Perhaps we are to focus on loving God by loving our neighbors – and let God himself worry about the rest. I’m not entirely comfortable with that conclusion, but I would agree that there is enough work for us to do to try to live this out in our present circumstances – and perhaps the best thing to do would be to start.