In as much as it is a tale of ordinary people in a closed community trying to thwart and elude the control of a greater outside authority, this Lebanese film has a lot in common with many an Ealing Comedy.

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It is though an Ealing Comedy of life and death.

In a hot, dusty, isolated village, surrounded by landmines, where the population is evenly split between Christians and Moslems, the villagers have managed to live their lives in relative peace.

The grand arrival of the village’s first TV set proves to be a mixed blessing as it brings news of sectarian violence nearby, stirring up tension among the men.

As they gear up for conflict, the women work together to come up with various schemes to avoid conflict, including bringing in a group of Russian exotic dancers to distract them.

Nadine Labaki’s previous film, Caramel, was warm, funny and sensual and her follow-up is a sweet and charming film, but not entirely soft: it does begin and end in a cemetery.

There is an awkward tension between the sometimes broad comedy of the schemes the women dream up and the seriousness of the situation.

A film in which all men are oafish brutes and all women are wise and peace loving is certainly open to being described as rather simplistic and clichéd but there is some subtlety and imagination in the way that it is dealt with.

The film uses comedy standards but undercuts them by giving them a tragic dimension. Labaki also throws in little musical numbers to give it a magic realist feel.

WHERE DO WE GO NOW? (15)

Director: Nadine Labaki

Starring: Nadine Labaki, Julian Farhat, Leyla Hakim, Ali Hader and Claude Baz Moussawbaa

Length: 110mins

***

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