Where Do We Go Now? Interview
Where Do We Go Now? Interview
Nadine Labaki is a Lebanese actor and director, who studied film in Beruit before going on to direct commercials and music videos for popular Middle Easter musicians and singers. Having both written, directed and starred in her very first feature film, Caramel in 2006, she has since returned to the subject of her home country and its conflicting political parties in the comedy drama musical Where Do We Go Now?

Here she talks to View’s Matthew Turner about her personal beliefs about the ongoing situation in Lebanon, why she likes to use non-professional actors for her films and how parenthood can change your perspective on religious conflict.
Where did the idea come from and how did the film come about?

Nadine Labaki

The idea came from some unfortunate events that happened in the year 2008. There was a conflict between two opposing political parties. And unfortunately these conflicts led people who followed these different political parties to take weapons, to go down to the streets and start shooting at each other again. And luckily it only lasted three weeks but during these three weeks we felt that we were on the verge of a new civil war - people with masks, in the streets, and rifles. The roads were blocked and the airport was blocked.

And I think it has to do with the fact that I just learnt that I was pregnant. You start thinking of the world and how can people who live in the same neighbourhood, people who practically live together, become enemies overnight because of political differences. You start thinking of this child that is going to be born and what kind of a society is that. I imagined him maybe, if he was eighteen or twenty years old and if he was tempted to do what the rest were doing, in the name of his ideas or to protect his building or whatever. If he was tempted to take a weapon and go down to the street and do what the rest were doing, what would I do as a mother to stop him?

And that’s how the story started. It was the story of a mother that was going to do everything she can to stop her son, and then it developed into a village where women were going to do everything they can to stop their men from fighting.
It’s a very serious subject but you’ve taken a sort of broadly comical way to it. How did that side of it come about?

Nadine Labaki

I think somehow, I had to make the reasons why we take weapons completely ridiculous. In order to do that, it has to be funny. Sometimes the situation is so absurd that you cannot help but laugh about it. It was that that made me want to take it in that direction, to make these reasons completely ridiculous and make the people who fight so quickly, completely ridiculous. I think the comic element came very naturally to the story. Also, because it’s not always white or black; sometimes it’s like that, sometimes it’s like that, and like I said, sometimes it’s so absurd you cannot help but laugh about it.
And on top of the comedy side you have the musical sequences. Why did you decide that?

Nadine Labaki

I think I wanted to add this fairytale aspect to the film because what’s happening is happening in a village between Christians and Muslims, but you don’t really know where this village is, and you don’t really know the time that it’s happening because I think it had to be more universal. This is the story between Christians and Muslims yes, but it could have happened between two neighbours in the building or between two brothers in the same family.

I want to talk about the conflict of people, who are living together, who do not tolerate the difference of the other. And, it also starts with a voice that is saying ‘I’m going to tell you a little story’, as if you were saying ‘Once Upon A Time, there was this village ...’
Can you talk about the casting process? The rest of the cast were mostly non-professional. How did you set about casting them?

Nadine Labaki

What happens usually, is I have a team of at least twenty people that really go everywhere in Lebanon and film everyone, according to the description of the characters. And then I see the tapes, and I get interested in some people, because of the way they talk or the way they answer the question. Not because of their acting abilities but really because of their personalities.

Then I meet them and we talk, and it’s not really an audition but I start filming them while we are talking. And then I ask them to be exactly who they are in the film. So it’s a very intense and very tiring process, because I see thousands and thousands of people and it’s not easy to make people who’ve never acted before act, or be in a film.
Where was it actually filmed, because it’s non-specific in the film, isn't it?

Nadine Labaki

It was filmed in Lebanon, in three different villages. But it’s not specified in the film. Apart from the language and the dialect, you don’t know where it’s happening. For Lebanese people, they recognised the language but for foreigners, they would never know where it’s happening. It’s somewhere in the Arab world, but where?
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Content updated: 22/10/2018 04:12

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