In her first movie, "Caramel," Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki took viewers to a Beirut beauty parlor where women tried to deal with unending war. Her new film takes the theme to a dusty village, where Christian and Muslim women try to stop their men from killing each other.
"Where Do We Go From Here?" opens with a group of black-clad women moving slowly from the village toward the cemetery. But, instead of walking, they sway and slide in a mystical dance, establishing the film as a fable which is not specifically set in the writer-director's native Lebanon.
"The film is intended to be a sort of a fairy tale," Labaki says. "It starts with this voice saying, 'I'm going to tell you a story,' as if somebody was telling you 'Once upon a time, there was this village where women were going to bring peace.' But I didn't want to relate it to any specific place or time. I wanted it to be more universal, because this conflict I am talking about could have happened between two families, two brothers, two friends, even two football teams."
To distract their men, the women will try anything from cooking special treats laced with hashish to importing a busload of European exotic dancers.
While Labaki tells her story with humor, at its core is a serious issue she knows all too well.
"In Lebanon, unfortunately, I don't know one person that hasn't lived a tragedy related to war," she says. "I am also fascinated and inspired by all the women in my family that have lost children during the war and that are still wearing black until now. I look at these women and I wonder, 'How do they do it?'"
While the situations in the film are exaggerated, the filmmaker believes the women's hopes are real.
"Even if some people say it is too simplistic to say women are wiser than men, it is not the intention," she says. "I am just trying to [show]the scream of a woman and of a mother that says, 'We have had enough. Stop making wars for stupid reasons.'"
Labaki also co-stars in the film, and at one point, her character says, "Do you think we are here just to mourn you? To wear black forever?Is that what being a man means?"
The filmmaker's goal is to entertain, while also making her audience think.
"Because I really, truly believe that cinema can be a very powerful, non-violent way of making a change," she says. "It sounds a bit naive, it sounds too innocent …but I want to stay naive. I want to believe that this world could be a better place."
Labaki wrote, directed and co-stars in "Where Do We Go Now." After playing to big audiences in the Middle East, the film is now reaching theaters in America and Europe.