Where Do We Go Now? opens with a group of women on a dusty road. Some of the women are old, others are young, all are dressed in black. They are walking to a cemetery that's filled with men who recently died. A part of the cemetery is dedicated to Muslim men, the other to Christian ones. The Christians were murdered by the Muslims; the Muslims were murdered by the Christians. All of the dead, as with all of the living women, come from the same village in a remote and parched part of an unnamed Middle Eastern country that's been torn to pieces by a long war between those who believe in the stories of the Bible and those who believe in the stories of the Koran. There's no racial or linguistic differences between these people. The men are fighting over nothing.
The Christian and Muslim women of the village have had enough. They are tired of the cemetery, tired of the black clothes, tired of always thinking about the dead. They want to live for once. But the men will not stop fighting. It only takes the wrong word to explode them into fists, blood, blasphemies, and bullets. What can the women of the village do? They decide to isolate their men, keep them ignorant of the world outside. They bring down satellite dishes, break the televisions, burn newspapers, hide radios. At one point, they raise money for Latvian prostitutes to visit the village and distract the men—it almost works. At another moment, they use drugs to get their men so high that God doesn't matter anymore. Sin is all they have left with which to save the village from the insanity and stupidity of religion.
The genius of this film is how it's a fantasy (only a magic spell can isolate a village from the forces of economic and technological globalization) elaborated by a variety of narrative modes. It opens as a musical (the women walking to the cemetery), transitions to a romance (between the Christian owner of a cafe and the Muslim contractor remodeling her business), turns into a tragedy (one young man is killed, and his mother curses the Virgin Mary for the loss of yet another male member of her family), and turns into a comedy (the men getting high from cakes and cookies and dancing with the beautiful, daintily clad Latvian prostitutes). Most brilliant of all: Each narrative mode stands on its own; none is forced to fit with the others. The comedy is only a comedy, the musical a musical, the tragedy a tragedy. When the mother holds her dead son and weeps and pleads for his life to return, the depths of her suffering feel real (maybe too real).
Finally, Nadine Labaki, the director and star of this film, is the most beautiful actress in the world. In my eyes, she has replaced Gong Li, the Chinese superstar, as the queen of the movie screen.