Lighter touch to Lebanese helmer's soph Cannes entry

While a handful of features from the Arab world made their way into Cannes’ Official Selection, Lebanese helmer Nadine Labaki’s Un Certain Regard title “Where Do We Go Now?” stands as the sole film directed by a femme Arab filmmaker.

Set in an isolated, Christian-Muslim Lebanese village, pic follows a group of women friends who come together to prevent the outbreak of another sectarian war, and go to all kinds of length to keep the men’s minds off violence.

Since breaking out with feature debut “Caramel,” which also played in Certain Regard, “Labaki has gained international recognition while emerging as a respected and beloved director in her homeland in Lebanon,” said Anne-Dominique Toussaint, producer and founder of Les Films des Tournelles. “She brings out a uniquely modern and humanistic vision of the Arab world.”

The film was penned by Labaki and her “Caramel” co-screenwriters Jihad Hojeily and Rodney El Haddad, in collaboration with “A Prophet” screenwriter Thomas Bidegain.

“It’s not a political film,” Toussaint said. “Labaki was able to make a film that’s entertaining while touching on some fundamental issues like religion and the role of women in society in a poetic way.”

Labaki said, “It’s not a story about war; on the contrary, it’s about how to avoid war. You can’t live in Lebanon without feeling this threat, which ends up coloring what we do and our ways of expression.”

Labaki said she expects some criticism of the film because “the events that occur are perhaps too unlikely for my country.”

That explains why she decided not to set the film in Lebanon to make it “a sort of imaginary tale” and have the “freedom to recount this situation.”

Labaki, who started her career as a musicvid helmer, took some risks to make the film as authentic as possible.

She was still shooting toward the end of last year in Lebanon when the country was threatened by another civil war, and she was editing the film while the Arab world experienced its largest upheaval in half a century.

Pic features mostly non-pro Lebanese women.

As in “Caramel,” the film boasts an original score by Khaled Mouzanar and songs are performed by the thesps.

The film is a French-Lebanese-Italian-Egyptian co-production from Les Films des Tournelles, Pathe, Les Films de Beyrouth, the United Artistic Group, Chaocorp, France 2 Cinema and Quinta Communications’ Prima TV, in association with the Doha Film Institute.

Pathe Intl. reps the film in international markets and will distribute it in France.

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