Posted by: r.m. | October 21, 2011

‘Where to now’ – a critique of Nadine Labki’s film

Okay. So I finally saw the much-touted, much-promoted Nadine Labki film – ‘Where to now’.  I thought it would be okay, possibly good.

It wasn’t.

It was superficial, offensive, sexist, and orientalist. It promoted dangerous ideas.  Plus, it was blatantly emotionally manipulative.  And filled with cliches.

(1) There is this village – idyllic – where Christians and Muslims live side by side.  Problems erupt from the ‘outside’ – from outside this isolated village. Thus, the idea is: it is “their” fault.  The crime begins from ‘out there.’

(2) There is no context, whatsoever, to conflict.  No context.  Violence erupts out of stupidity, a stupidity that is encouraged by ‘those outside’. End of story. Even though, in this village, Christians and Muslims live side by side, they erupt, like neurotic idiots, by the simplest potential ‘slight.’

(3) There is constant talk of “co-existence.”  Discussion of “co-existence” emphasis that there is “an other” – that ‘you’ and ‘I’ are separate from each other, and thus not a real community. Rather, discussions of ‘co-existence’ presents the village (which is symbolic of our country) as two communities in one.  A paradigm that has also been significantly promoted.

(4) Ignorance is promoted.  Newspapers are burned. Knowledge of the outside could lead to more violence. Let’s not watch the news. Let’s learn nothing. Let’s dig our heads further into the sand and just hope everything will go away. Which leads us to point number 5.

(5) Problems are not solved. They are covered. Men act crazy, because of their inherence tendency to stupidity, because of their ever-ready, gun-ready nature. Want to solve the problem?  You can’t. You must illude the men. Fool them.  Either distract them with a false miracle.  Or drug them.  Or use sex.

(6) Sex.  Women: don’t use your own sex. Don’t empower your own sexuality by refraining from sleeping with your violent-prone, irrational, stupid men. No. Why should you? Rather, bring in prostitutes to do the work.  The film blatantly promoted prostitution. Excused prostitution.  Excused the trafficking of women, and, yes, trafficking, the enforced slavery of women.  Even in the film itself, the pimp for the Eastern European prostitutes told them they would not “get a dime” – they would not even be paid for their services.  For a movie written and directed by a woman to excuse and promote prostitution is even more offensive.  And inexcusable. All the more inexcusable since Lebanon is guilty of trafficking in women.

(7) Women are innocent.  Yes, women committed no crimes.  Wait: didn’t women, some women at least, take part in the civil war in Lebanon? Didn’t women, some women at least, carry guns and kill people? Yes. And aren’t these women also mothers, raising their sons? Yes. So, either women are innocent and impotent in raising their boys to be good men, or women are hypocritical.  Either way, the paradigm is false. No gender has a monopoly on violence. Just as no gender has a monopoly on irrationality or stupidity.

(8) Men of cloth are innocent.  Religious men are innocent. They stood up to stop violence (but were also impotent and thus had to resort to the games of women).  Really? They were innocent?  During the civil war, weren’t men, representing religions, both Christian and Muslim, support and endorse the violence? Didn’t they even promote it? And since, haven’t they promoted further sectarian divisions and further violence? Yes.  Some of them are innocent. And some are quite damn guilty.

(9)  The problem can never be solved.  Despite all the games, despite all the drugs, sex, miracles, manipulations, etc, despite the Christians becoming Muslim and the Muslims becoming Christian (only superficially since they can’t determine how to bury the boy – in the Christian or Muslim gravesite), the problem can still not solved. The women — the intelligent voice of this village — still can’t come up with a solution. That’s how the film ends.  We are inherently pathetic.  Nothing can be done. Violence will remain cyclical.

(10) Why was this film so heavily promoted in Lebanon? So heavily promoted by Marcel Ghanem – who devoted more than 3 hours to the film on his talk show? Because it promotes the destructive paradigms. It further maintains the much-accepted concept: hayda nehna, hayda jawna. i.e. we have always been this way; it cannot be changed.  So – keep those guns.

(11) Why is this film so loved in Europe? It promotes the very images of us that the Europeans already accept and love to hold dear. What images does the film promote?  Stupid, violent-prone men.  Women using sex – actually other women’s sex – to distract the men.  Violence that is inherent to the region and cannot be solved but only temporarily covered.  And: when you watch the film, made by those crazy, neurotic Lebanese/Arabs, you can get to feel better about yourself without feeling the teeniest bit racist.

Plus – in addition to those 11 points, the film was poorly made.  It was littered with cliches.  Dripping with superficial images, images designed to be emotionally manipulative.

Want more? Most of the ideas were stolen. Stolen from films – American and Iranian and Greek films.  Yet another act of Lebanese plagiarism touted as genius.

Again: what is most offensive about this film is how much it has been liked – not just by some of the people in the theatre, but by so-called intellectuals. Quite sad. Quite problematic.


Responses

  1. I agree with several points that you made here, especially the one on “co-existence”. I think that this word or socio-political rhetoric is dangerous to our communities where a religious variety (shall we say) exists. But to tell you the truth, the world was happy to see India, with all its sects, reach a consociational democracy; which is institutionalizing co-existence by definition. When you see liberals or europeans for that matter, liking this movie, its because people in general want a quick and bloodless solution towards peace. it is quite admirable in a naive, simple way. But our society is violent, and easily manipulated -a lethal combination.

    I specifically thought that the scene when the women of both faiths helped clean up the mosque and when the muslim women was gluing together the broken statue of the virgin Mary was effective, after all, women can be encouraged to act as agents of peace. I also saw the burning of the newspapers and the destroying of the tv as a very powerful message against the current media channels that are constantly being exploited and used to widen the gap between people to say the least! These media “outlets” are nothing but sectarian weapons used to emotionally charge people against each other. It has been the case for decades.

    It is evident and true that sub-communities tend to take any deviant incidents as an offense or attack by the “other”. Case in point, the Sunni street was quick to accused the Shiites of assassinating Harriri in 2005. Sectarian people do not need evidence, they rely on their existing feelings and instinct.

    Like all other regional movies, this one touches a problem and leaves people to explore further on their own. It does however encourage a tight community, developing your area (تطوير المتحد) and trying to find a parallel venue for social gatherings that is not religious.

  2. pt 1: I think it just tells how irrelevant the reasons for the fights to erupt were. Also, take the outside thing as a symbol for what has happened during the civil war…Didn’t some Lebanese use outsiders to help them against other Lebanese?

    pt 2: exactly, refer to pt 1. And well yes, there is no context. This is a movie not a documentary. It is symbolic.

    pt 3: fully agree, but why do you see the idea of ‘us’ and ‘them’ promoted rather than exposed?

    pt 4: disagree, propaganda/sectarian media is being discarded. This is not my favorite way of handling a matter like that. For you shouldn’t get all revengeful at the ‘other’ in the village if someone of the ‘us’ is dead somewhere else. But she’s just telling that that’s the way things are.

    pt 5 & 9: agree, on pt 5, but again, “the problem is not solved-cannot be solved” is not the message. The end is not “the end”, it’s how things are now. In the end you’d think so will we still fall for the trap?

    pt 6: agree, but do you see the idea promoted or exposed?

    pt 7: yes, but most of the female characters were mothers and not young recruits in armed militias, like what happened in Lebanon. There must have been a character like that, but you cannot force her to cover everything. As i said it’s not a documentary.

    pt 8: agree

    pt 10: (again) promoted or exposed?

    pt 11: FULLY AGREE-this film was especially tailored to consolidate the foreign idea on Lebanon.

    Myself I didn’t really like the movie. I thought it was too cliché-ed. Maybe she used them for symbolizing purposes, or just to win the Oscar. (leaning on the second)

  3. […] ‘Where to now’ – a critique of Nadine Labki’s film « Green Resistance (teaching, organizing…. […]

  4. this critique is too extremist. it shows you didn’t get the fact the movie is meant to be surreal and utopic. it’s not the best movie ever and i’m not defending it, but the message does not remain in the christians/muslims war thingy. it’s way beyond this. it doesn’t even say that men are stupid or women are innocent. the ups and downs are very subtle. and concerning the cliches, i would say they’re more like inspirations, which is never something wrong. you can get inspired from others’ work on one condition: add your own touch, and sincerely i can definitely feel the labake’s touch in her movies.

  5. Well, you is too deep for me. I just liked the film, but didn’t realize that it was meant to be analyzed. I just enjoyed it. I guess that ain’t supposed to happen. I will be more bitter next time.

  6. that’s is a long list.
    some points are ok and interesting.. most are not .
    so here is my response to your .

    1- its a movie , its fiction , its and alternate universe , the filmmaker doesn’ have to provide explanation/and or context to every single occurrence or context.
    c.f un chien andalou – luis bunuel .

    2-see point one,
    you point is correct , but lets consider Lebanese conflicts at its face value -as everything in this film should.
    it looks just as you described it , and just as Labaky shows it , to a third party observer. i.e Dull , pointless, stupid and hollow .

    3- I m gonna refer you to a critic of the tolerant liberal discourse , by Slavoj Zizek:

    (yes i too am a good fan of good old slavoj)

    4/5- your premise in those to points are absurd , as those are plot points and are somehow critical to the story ,
    if you criticizing censorship as a concept , -something that labaky isn’t doing nor is pretending to be doing .
    its basically a plot point mean to get the story moving and draw attention to Women’s role in that village.
    hence your critic is mainly driven by a subjective political point of view rather than an objective third party observation (as it should by art critics ) .

    6-Again you’re just missing the point , the movie isn’t promoting slavery/prostitution/human trafficking .(something that is constantly shown in Syrian, Turkish and American movies )
    ok i ‘ll hand it to you you’re -as i read- a very intelligent independent and strong woman ( I’ve read this blog before), And i understand the premise of feminism and the whole struggle for equality.
    but you seem to have mistook a movie that is talking about that struggle and about the importance of strong, independent women in their communities .
    Try looking at it this way , those”exotic dancer are metaphor for all those “abuse”(its a big word in this context) women in lebanon as opposed to the villages Mothers and Wives who Actually run the show.

    7-this point irrelevant in the critic of this movie.
    Its a very true point ( the most interesting point actually )
    but it is utterly irrelevant to the premises of the movie , and to the parallel universe of the film.

    8-this point , as point 7 is irrelevant .
    but the argument raised in this point are also very real and interesting.
    What more relevant is the Impotence and irrelevance of religion it self in conflicts like ours.

    9-A solution is not important,
    One of the motifs of the movie , one that is show very well, is pointing out the problem.
    Just standing there and pointing your finger.
    this motif rose to prominence with post-modernism philosophy, And largely employed in architecture by the likes of Peter Eisenman and Leubeus Woods ( main figures in the contemporary architectural discourse and decostructivism ).

    Etc.etc

    Now the film should be read as easily as reading pollution figures this is not science ( but there is a way to grade art works and its usually done by art critics and connoisseurs)
    A work of art usually explores motifs and themes here Nadine Labaky explores many themes.
    Those motifs are more relevant to the current crises we are going through than to the narrow scocio-political bickering of religious communities.

    That crises is the crises we are living since the fall of the modern project in the 70’s.
    the word post-modernism is used for lack of a better word.( there are many terms but non is global and unifying) .
    Im gona stop here because this has been going on for too long.

    Its has been a pleasure writing this as it is a pleasure reading you blog.
    But please , Art and enviromantal sciences can’t be judged on the same scale , it’s a whole different world..

    It would be nice hearing you thoughts via email.
    Thanks
    Jad

  7. (about me – im 5th year architecture student at ALBA with a passion for the post-modern )

  8. Maybe you would disagree on the story, but the directing skills of Labaki cannot be ignored. Labaki managed to introduce many novelty scenes. Most notably, the debuting scenes should be praised for many reasons. The use of music as an integral part of the movie is made very smoothly, and it can be felt that the music and the scenes were made together, not one preceding the other. Another touching scenes is that of the well. Then that of the lady on the roof around the ending.
    Setting the storyline aside, Labaki is a talented director to look for!

  9. elizabeth jabbour, biol207 class
    i thaught the movie was emotional and very ” lebanese” : the mimed the way lebanese talked and you could feel that its so close to our real words and lives and daily routines even till now.. but i agree with you on one point : the usage of women to distract men sexually: arent we done with those cliches yet? arent we done viewing women from ukraine,russia..as prostitues ? this view should change and the movie did not help that at all..

    but to give nadine labaki great credit, she lifted lebanese cinema wo an international level, and we applaud her for her efforts and talent.

  10. Since some of what I thought about was mentioned in the replies, but I would like to see another Lebanese director or possibly yourself be able to get the msg to a huge number of people ( check the numbers of people watching it) that fighting is not the solution and that it is a viscous circle.

    That intruders or external events can hinder the peace of even a very small community.

    I am sure she didnt expect that this movie will propose a solution to all conflicts but she managed to give a “food” for thought for everyone that watched it.

    Prostitution is a much bigger problem, and she did prove that using “easy” women will not solve the problem

    I believe the intention was not to be sexist,superficial, offensive, and orientalist, she just used some facts of our society whether you admit it or not ( prostitution, and men being the obvious leaders of this society, superficiality …) so people can relate, and would think ah she has a point.

    I also dont believe any of the educated and advocates of peace and equality did go to the movie expecting an enlightenment but it was rather a fun (excellent music, effects, funny, dramatic…) movie that had a valuable msg. This msg, is that though there is currently an us and them ( whether you would like to admit it or not) we can be eventually one, one of the keys to that is mothers and women…

  11. One more thing, As much as I appreciate your opinion, I think you might also channel you extreme criticism to the people actually publicly advertising prostitution (super-night clubs )and the advocates of superficiality ( Lebanese series, and banks giving loans for plastic surgery….).

  12. I totally agree and I add:
    – Nadine seems to have lived in neither Christian nor a Muslim community. her understanding of those two communities is shown as very superficial
    – Muslims might step on the cross out of anger they would however NEVER touch St Mary’s statue since they revere her more than Fatima herself. Nadine was obviously inspired from 2 incident reported on the news where statues of st Mary were destroyed and the culprits were never found: I tend to believe it was Christians who did that to scare Christians (now that could be a good movie plot) .
    – women are shown as the peacekeepers which is not the case at all in real life. we in the orient (fortunately of unfortunately I dunno) men make war and peace. Plus Nadine seems to forget the role women play in educating their children (among them the men themselves) towards hatred or love: it is mothers who breed the wars and men who fight it!
    – in ANY closeliving communities in Lebanon, the tendency towards violence is ALWAYS tempered!! as opposed to what Nadine showed: it is the villagers who tend to show that “they don’t care of what happens in politics” just to keep the peace among them.
    – Nadine Portrays men as the stupid blind warmongers (I think she is inspired by some 10% of right wing Christians who live isolated in their dreamland). the fact is that men (anywhere in the world) are more into the show than the real act: since men actually “taste” violence they are the ones who respect it the most …and thus avoid it whenever possible (ask veteran soldiers and martial artists).
    – Finally Nadine degrades the role of women to whimpering chicks with no sexual power whatsoever, confined to clean and cook !!

    The only Positive thing about her movie is that it is ….a movie (since non but her actually is doing a movie worth of the name)

  13. Interesting!! For a person to be able to write such details you’d have to watch it more than once even if it’s not so for a person who disliked the movie it seems that you recall details very well!

    • i happen to have a keen memory ..scary but true

  14. you people are taking the critique to the extreme. it’s a SURREAL movie.
    it’s not about muslims destroying St Mary’s statue nor about prostitution!
    nadine’s subtle work on the different moods, the ups and downs, the message she’s transmitting to the lebanese society all in all, is way beyond muslims and christians in this country!

  15. You are horribly bitter!

  16. Super interesting blog! i love it!

    Seriously!! “Quite sad. Quite problematic.” dont you think that is too “sad” to say this? Just becos one Lebanese director had the guts to point out the issues that everyone prefers not to talk about? just becos this Lebanese director, of whom you should be proud, had the courage to take pout her ideas to the world? literally the world! Sad? why? cos it pours salt on wound? cos it is true, and very true? cos it touches the people’s emotions? cos it has prostitutes in it? how about, instead of being a professional critic, be a Lebanese, a speak from your heart and now with the tip on your uniball pen. or here… your keyboard!

  17. The reason this movie is superficial is because Nadine Labaki is superficial. She is not a film director. She directs Arabic pop videos for goodness’ sake! Unfortunately this woman gets budgets because she makes just the kind of tripe that Westerners with no real interest in our culture want to see. She portrays the natives as hapless, bumbling, fatalistic, kind of goofy – but isn’t that what most white folks find so adorable about us when we’re not flying planes into buildings? This was an excellent and necessary critique, and to all the bleating sheep who are dissing the writer without any proper refutation to this very thorough analysis – keep consuming your crappy, shallow, artificial ‘culture’ and parroting your brainless praise. Why have any introspection at all? After all, everything Lebanese is automatically brilliant, right?

    • Some of the world’s best directors either started off as Pop Music video directors (David Fincher for example, who later made Se7en and fightclub) or did a one time off of it (Martin Scorsese who did ‘Bad’ for Michael Jackson). So, I don’t see how that’s a point against Nadine.

      As I said in one of my replies, no not everything Lebanese is brilliant. Specifically, I disliked Nadine’s previous film.

      If people choose to dwarf us to JUST plane building crashing idiots, then that’s their problem. However, Nadine in no way shape or form does she promote such an idea.

      What she portrays, is sadly in parts and gladly in others part of our culture. How can you explain people laughing/crying in the cinema while watching it? Oh, I forgot, they’re all sheep and you’re the only who reached Nirvana. I suggest if you’re 27 years old, get a gun …😉

  18. haha, and now we’re mixing terrorism to culture and treating the westerners as ‘white folks’… can you be any more racist? + nadine’s sister, caroline, is the one who directs arabic pop videos.
    may i ask you what is ‘artificial culture’ please? i think i need a clear definition for this non-existing term!

  19. @ VK – You don’t seem to get sarcasm, but I’ll gladly explain what I said in more literal terms that you can understand. Labaki does not challenge stereotypes (one of them being Arab as terrorist, for example) and reinforces negative views of Eastern cultures as being irrational, over-emotional, and lacking the ability to make sensible decisions. When I referred to ‘White folks’ I was not being ‘racist’ (just as it’s not ‘racist’ to talk about ‘white privilege’); first I did not generalize and say all, I was talking about mainstream Western culture and their mainstream media (Hollywood, their ‘news’ channels) that is rife with negative stereotypes about Arabs that dehumanize and infantilize us. I think you know this, however your reaction was just knee-jerk as my dislike of this film bothered you and you took it personally for some strange reason. You didn’t really address anything I said and resorted to juvenile comments that don’t add anything to the discussion. (And why are so many against there being a discussion about this? It seems easier to commit blasphemy than to openly say one didn’t like am arguably lousy movie just because the maker is Lebanese. What narcissism.)

    As for ‘artificial culture’ – it’s this false identity that a lot of insecure Lebanese cling to (one of the main culprits is the idiotic and racist Annahar that worships anything Western) and who promote chauvinists like Joumana Haddad as a ‘thinker’ and ‘feminist’ and pop-video makers like Nadine as ‘film makers’, not to mention all the garbage television that relies so heavily on sleaze in the bid to appear ‘modern.’ I hate to break this to you, but the Lebanese who think they are so original are very typical of a post-colonial society with their fake bourgeoisie and false, very easily-threatened belief of superiority in themselves vs. other ‘natives’ and at the same time a rather pathetic need to define themselves through Western (approving) eyes.

    What is really irritating about all this (other than sheep who try to shut down the discussion because a contrary view threatens them so much) is that there are actually a lot of Lebanese film talents out there who don’t get the acknowledgement or financing they deserve because their ideas are challenging and fresh, and because mediocre and shameless plagiarists like Nadine are hogging the limelight.

    ps. Both her and her sister direct Arabic pop videos, not that there is anything wrong with being a pop video director.

  20. 🙂

  21. @ Zeina and Gabriella – yes, heaven forbid that anyone engages their brain while watching a movie. And if they dislike it, well they can only be ‘bitter’ because this movie is better than anything Scorcese, Woody Allen, Goddard and Kurosawa have made put together. (I mean, it MUST be better, because it’s OK to critique these great writers and directors, but absolutely unacceptable to cast a critical eye on Labaki)

  22. I loved the movie. I thought it was quite funny.
    Labaki clearly showed with her movie that luckily we can still joke about religions in Lebanon and not be taken to trial for blasphemy. People actually laugh and dont feel offended at all.

    and yes …some of the wars erupted in lebanon out of mere stupidity, example: the war of el alamein in west Beirut in the 80s.

  23. Dear writer and writer’s personal lawyer, a.k.a. Miranda,
    You both have arguable points; No one is against discussing how bad or good the movie was. It’s the extremity of the critique that’s upsetting people. It’s not about taking it personal nor is it about Lebanese supremacy!! (Stereotyping does not go well with people trying to claim enlightenment). I agree that many (not all) Lebanese have an inferiority complex that makes them obnoxious. It is not Nadine’s fault that there is no film industry in this country nor is it her fault that the many talented (whom I’m sure are there) aren’t getting the proper funding. Not one of the replies claimed that it was as good as Goddard, Spielberg, Fellini, Howard Hawks, John Ford, Lione… let alone better! So, chill.
    First before answering the points, it’s good to remember that this is a MOVIE as someone pointed out, fiction (albeit based on nonfiction), and a sentimental movie at that. If you’re against sentimentality as a concept that’s another issue. There have been recently Lebanese movies (1 or 2) that have flopped locally, and many series flop locally. So, NO, one doesn’t like something JUST because it’s Lebanese. Personally, I didn’t like Nadine’s previous movie.

    1- on the contrary, the fact that they’re so impressionable and affected by ‘the outside’ shows how much they are at fault!

    2- “violence erupts out of stupidity”; do you see a better context or reason than that for violence? or a more real one?!?!

    3- not promoted, not even exposed, just shown, observed.

    4- not promoted, not even exposed, just shown, observed.

    5- Isn’t that the truth, especially in our Arab nations?

    6- Again showing something it doesn’t mean that you promote it?!?! What kind of reasoning leads to this kind of deduction?! Though I agree with you on the part of abstinence of women from sex, their lack of power.

    7- This is her vision about women or what she would like them to be. some women killed in the civil war? what type of percentage are you talking about here? (some women in the Lebanese forces, and what percentage is that of the whole women population at that time???)

    8 – Again, maybe that’s her vision about how she’d like men of cloth to be. Yes, there were religious people who were war-hungry, but weren’t there others who tried to stop the civil war on more than one occasion?? for example: Moussa AlSadr??

    9- Nadine is not a problem solver, neither is she forced to be one; that is her choice as a director; many western directors have presented and continue to present problems without offering solutions! Call it awareness or call it exploitation; it depends on your point of view. N.B.: the switching of religions is used successfully for comic effect and to show the lengths that people are willing to go to to stop war.

    10 & 11 – It was promoted and loved because it’s a very good (sentimental)movie, as funny as it is sad (which is a very difficult thing to achieve). Locally, it succeeded because it’s Lebanese to the very bones: one finds himself laughing and getting upset at once, at himself or at other Lebanese. In Europe, it was not successful for the reasons you’ve mentioned; after all, there are the same types of ‘bad people’ shown in the movie in Europe if not worse, as there are here. My guess is they loved the movie as a whole. I don’t know why you see the movie as a negative, though it has a positive note.

    Cliches which you mentioned more than once and stressed on! Human nature will not change (and hence the rise of the expression cliche). A crying baby will always make most people sad; a baby’s giggle will always make people happy, the smell of a flower is enjoyed by most people – cliches. So, we’re not against cliches as a concept; The question is were they used effectively or not?

    As for ‘stealing’ from others; Scorsese (one mentioned by your lawyer Miranda) accused more than once of stealing from previous international directors replied: I’d like to call it HOMAGE. Anyways, if she got inspired by others, that’s fair enough; if it’s plaigirism I hope you can provide evidence

    Thank you and let’s at least applaud the effort to try to have a Lebanese film industry no matter how below average you think the movie is (because you can’t in all conscience say it’s crappy and without merit!)

  24. Normally, I’m not one to get hung up on critiques, because I think everyone is entitled to their opinion–even more so in regard to any art form, as taste is highly subjective. But this sent me into such a violent fit of *headdesk* that I don’t think I can comfortably go to sleep without offering an alternate perspective. Though honestly, I’m just skimming the tip of the iceberg here, because this article has enough material for a dissertation:

    It was superficial, offensive, sexist, and orientalist. It promoted dangerous ideas. Plus, it was blatantly emotionally manipulative. And filled with cliches.

    I think you’re missing some adjectives in that list: blasphemous, pornographic, sociopathic, warmongering…just some ideas. Also, quick question: did Nadine Labaki steal your boyfriend when you were 15? I mean, “emotionally manipulative”? Do you even know what fictional cinema is?? Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but all forms of media, even (gasp!) documentaries and news are emotionally manipulative. If you want pure, unadulterated objectivity, you’re going to be holding your breath until you’re plant fertilizer.

    (1) There is this village – idyllic – where Christians and Muslims live side by side. Problems erupt from the ‘outside’ – from outside this isolated village. Thus, the idea is: it is “their” fault. The crime begins from ‘out there.’

    Right. Because there is no place on earth where Christians and Muslims live side by side. That’s just /ridiculous/.

    (2) There is no context, whatsoever, to conflict. No context. Violence erupts out of stupidity, a stupidity that is encouraged by ‘those outside’. End of story. Even though, in this village, Christians and Muslims live side by side, they erupt, like neurotic idiots, by the simplest potential ‘slight.’

    So, you mention the conflict that’s ongoing outside the village, but there’s no context? As for violence erupting from a simple misunderstanding, that’s /the point/, darling. A huge part of the message of the film is that conflict can be born of the silliest misunderstandings and people can be so prone to take things personally, blowing them out of proportion or projecting, that next thing they know they’re sitting in a feud fueled by any choice of ideological differences that had nothing to do with anything in the first place.

    (3) There is constant talk of “co-existence.” Discussion of “co-existence” emphasis that there is “an other” – that ‘you’ and ‘I’ are separate from each other, and thus not a real community. Rather, discussions of ‘co-existence’ presents the village (which is symbolic of our country) as two communities in one. A paradigm that has also been significantly promoted.

    I don’t know what world /you/ live in, but the one /I/ live in is full of diversity, with people from all kinds of different cultures and backgrounds. That’s that. It ain’t gonna change. And to suggest that a “real community” or an ideal world is one where we’re all a homogeneous blob of the same kind of people is highly debatable, in my opinion. In fact, peaceful “co-existence” is probably the very best we can hope for.

    (4) Ignorance is promoted. Newspapers are burned. Knowledge of the outside could lead to more violence. Let’s not watch the news. Let’s learn nothing. Let’s dig our heads further into the sand and just hope everything will go away. Which leads us to point number 5.

    /Or/ (just humor me for a second here) maybe they’re just trying to maintain stability? But at the unforgivable expense of knowledge and enlightenment?!? you say? You’re right. If I was a mother and the neighbors in my town were going at each other, stirring up all hell for no good reason and I had to pick between allowing them to fuel their nonsense by the example of other idiots on TV, or shutting it down to maintain some peace, I would be the first one to stand in front of that TV and scream to the four winds “GIVE ME NEWS OR GIVE ME DEATH!” Because nothing should ever get in the way of the empowerment that the media brings us. Just like that time the “free” press told Americans that all Muslims were terrorists. How would they have known otherwise?? And then the U.S. might have never invaded Iraq. Imagine!

    (5) Problems are not solved. They are covered. Men act crazy, because of their inherence tendency to stupidity, because of their ever-ready, gun-ready nature. Want to solve the problem? You can’t. You must illude the men. Fool them. Either distract them with a false miracle. Or drug them. Or use sex.

    I’ve also experienced some success with a tub of guacamole.

    (6) Sex. Women: don’t use your own sex. Don’t empower your own sexuality by refraining from sleeping with your violent-prone, irrational, stupid men. No. Why should you? Rather, bring in prostitutes to do the work. The film blatantly promoted prostitution. Excused prostitution. Excused the trafficking of women, and, yes, trafficking, the enforced slavery of women. Even in the film itself, the pimp for the Eastern European prostitutes told them they would not “get a dime” – they would not even be paid for their services. For a movie written and directed by a woman to excuse and promote prostitution is even more offensive. And inexcusable. All the more inexcusable since Lebanon is guilty of trafficking in women.

    Will you make up your mind? Either it’s ok to manipulate with sex or it’s not. That said, I don’t think those Russian girls appreciate being called prostitutes. Maybe they’re just dancers, ok?

    But seriously now, don’t you think it’s going a bit far to say the film blatantly promoted prostitution and enforced slavery? Yes, prostitution and trafficking of Eastern European women is a real issue in Lebanon–no one is denying that. But the film can hardly be categorized as an active advertisement for it. Rather, it’s making use of an existing stereotype for the purposes of the plotline (wild concept, I know). And perhaps the stereotype can be seen as problematic, but the blame should remain with the issue and the parties that facilitate the real-life problem.

    It’s also not about women failing to empower their own sexuality. It’s about the simple idea that they’re bringing in a group of attractive and “exotic,” if you will, women to fuel their husbands fantasies and distract them. If this was a film about an American town, they’d probably bring in bellydancers. If the conflict was between white women, they’d call the Latino poolboys. It’s human nature to be attracted by the exotic and different, and it’s far fetched to assume that manipulating this affinity is a downplay of your own sexuality.

    (7) Women are innocent. Yes, women committed no crimes. Wait: didn’t women, some women at least, take part in the civil war in Lebanon? Didn’t women, some women at least, carry guns and kill people? Yes. And aren’t these women also mothers, raising their sons? Yes. So, either women are innocent and impotent in raising their boys to be good men, or women are hypocritical. Either way, the paradigm is false. No gender has a monopoly on violence. Just as no gender has a monopoly on irrationality or stupidity.

    Woman, at least read your own points before moving on to the next contradiction. Didn’t you point out that the women hired “prostitutes” to manipulate their husbands? And that they drugged them? Doesn’t sound all that innocent and impotent to me.

    Also, I’m starting to get this crazy idea that your expectations for this film were that it should address every gender and Lebanese issue ever.

    (8) Men of cloth are innocent. Religious men are innocent. They stood up to stop violence (but were also impotent and thus had to resort to the games of women). Really? They were innocent? During the civil war, weren’t men, representing religions, both Christian and Muslim, support and endorse the violence? Didn’t they even promote it? And since, haven’t they promoted further sectarian divisions and further violence? Yes. Some of them are innocent. And some are quite damn guilty.

    Make that /every/ issue ever.

    (9) The problem can never be solved. Despite all the games, despite all the drugs, sex, miracles, manipulations, etc, despite the Christians becoming Muslim and the Muslims becoming Christian (only superficially since they can’t determine how to bury the boy – in the Christian or Muslim gravesite), the problem can still not solved. The women — the intelligent voice of this village — still can’t come up with a solution. That’s how the film ends. We are inherently pathetic. Nothing can be done. Violence will remain cyclical.

    AND you want a perfect, happy ending? Shall we resurrect Bambi’s mother for you? Come on now, you criticize the film for being superficial, but when it so much as hints at the realistic complexity of human interactions, you say it paints us as “inherently pathetic.”

    (10) Why was this film so heavily promoted in Lebanon? So heavily promoted by Marcel Ghanem – who devoted more than 3 hours to the film on his talk show? Because it promotes the destructive paradigms. It further maintains the much-accepted concept: hayda nehna, hayda jawna. i.e. we have always been this way; it cannot be changed. So – keep those guns.

    Just…go rewatch the film. /Please/. Because so far you seem to have missed the point in at least ten different ways.

    (11) Why is this film so loved in Europe? It promotes the very images of us that the Europeans already accept and love to hold dear. What images does the film promote? Stupid, violent-prone men. Women using sex – actually other women’s sex – to distract the men. Violence that is inherent to the region and cannot be solved but only temporarily covered. And: when you watch the film, made by those crazy, neurotic Lebanese/Arabs, you can get to feel better about yourself without feeling the teeniest bit racist.

    Even if this was a mediocre film, (which most seem to agree with me, it’s not) if I was a Lebanese woman with any regard for my domestic film industry, I would be glad that a female Lebanese director is getting international acclaim and attention….if for no other reason than because it may extend the opportunity to other non-American female directors in an industry that’s overwhelmingly dominated by American male directors.

    Plus – in addition to those 11 points, the film was poorly made. It was littered with cliches. Dripping with superficial images, images designed to be emotionally manipulative.

    Ah, right, thanks for clarifying. I didn’t quite catch that from the 11 commandme–points, I mean.

    Someone please get this woman a puppy.

    • Sasha
      HAHAHAHA, excellent (though a TAD long) reply.
      Any reasoning that I can come up with for why this person wrote such a critique results in her being labeled a low life:
      1- (as you said) the director stole her boyfriend
      2- she’s emotionally, to euphemize, unstable😉
      3- She’s irrational and a ‘selective’ analyst
      4- she wants attention brought to her blog
      5….
      6….

    • simmerdownnow! no need to make it personal (…though i admit it was pretty much hilarious).
      How about a professional counterargument for what makes the film powerful?

      • Sasha already did, and I did waaaaaay above. Some of them are the same that are described in the article only from a different (positive) perspective.

      • Dear Chantal,

        I would actually have a rather difficult time taking this film “critique” personally, on account that it had a below null impact on my perception of the film and its achievements. But for other individuals who might take it seriously, it just seemed unfair to let it go uncontested.
        As far as a professional counterargument for what makes the film powerful, it’s very simple: it worked.
        I felt deep sadness, joy, sympathy, frustration, anger. Sometimes I wanted to chuck things at those knuckleheads when they were being violent and stubborn. Sometimes I laughed my ass off. Most importantly, I left that movie theater with a burning urge to do something positive within my community and reflected on the content of the film for many hours after.
        Now, I personally found the film to be a beautiful piece of work. Others may disagree. That’s fine. It doesn’t have to be perfect to do the job. Even if you arrive at some shockingly short-sighted (that’s actually not the first word that came to mind…but since we’re keep it professional here) conclusions (see critique at top of the page), at least it made you /think/, right? ..Gets the discussions going…what more can you ask for??

  25. For all those who are calling the blogger bitter, please, check your facts.
    Now, the world we live in is not an EITHER/OR world, where people are either good or evil, or either happy with a film or bitter as a person for not liking it. A film CAN have mistakes, so, we’ll have to leave our emotions aside for a second and think out of the mainstream and outside of the box. You should be happy to read this since critique is a way forward.

    The movie is a very VERY VERY bad movie, why is it so bad? Because Nadine Labaki directed it, and this woman has experience, so she does not have an alibi, she’s not a youngster or a rookie.

    Here are some of the technical mistakes:

    – Montage, there are sooo many mistakes of montage or film editing, the cuts are not clean, they have been done rather sporadically and quickly.
    – Lipsing (voice over) such a disaster
    – Context and the weaving of a coherent story (it is very weak, so she used the “once upon a time” strategy to cover the weaknesses, but she made it even weaker.
    – There are also major weaknesses in how the angles were taken
    – She stole parts of other movies (Plagiarism) and we don’t care who plagiarized before her, plagiarism is not acceptable🙂
    – There are also scenes that weren’t necessary, like the very weak scene where Nadine shouts at the men, it was completely unneccessary, but she wanted to be seen, that’s all there is. (Shoufoune 3am 3ayit ana kamen fine bekikon, mesh bess heyde l actress l shatra)

    The film is a disaster, technically speaking🙂

    Nadine Labaki’s salvation (what made you think it was a good movie)

    – The over dramatization (Making you laugh and cry that often, because you don’t understand cinema techniques, you’re just a mainstream observer, not even an observer, you’re someone who’s taking in information a receiver, so she triggers your emotions)
    – The professionalism of the actors, her actors are so talented (but she did not give them a chance to shine by the way🙂
    – The budget, she had a huge budget of around 6 million dollars that was provided by a foreign production agency
    – The symbolism that she used was strong, but used in a very very weak context

    I also laughed once, when a French man that I met at a cafe and who was in Lebanon for a mere two months, told me that he is exploring Lebanese culture and naturally noticed a mainstream film called maintenant on va ou and that he felt the director was a bit too egocentric.

    I cannot but agree🙂 I like to call it Jou3…

    – The posters of Nadine (and she is not the ultimate symbol in the story, the branding doesn’t make sense here)
    – Not shedding the light on other actresses or actors sufficiently in terms of promotion
    – The cheap ads like the one where people are leaving the cinema after the film and advising others to watch the movie (how cheap)
    – The magazine covers
    – The fact that one of her actresses (Ta2la) won the best actress award, but no one knew about it in Lebanon
    – Johnny Walker etc..

    A friend once told me, that Nadine wants to be like Nancy Ajram, and like the people she used to direct movies for… and he said, she has the full right to be whatever she wants to be… A star, an icon, rice for the masses..

    But this is not good cinema🙂

    Thank you.

    P

  26. very good post Pascale; still I don’t know how you say we should put emotions aside and have such a reply (including the ‘very BAD BAD MOVIE’ wow, that bad!).

    I don’t think the main points of any of our replies included defending the movie as an achievement in the technicals! ‘Indecent proposal’ was a very good movie, and yet there is more than one scene where you actually see the mike for the sound above the actors!

    I didn’t get exactly how did the story seem weak to you, especially now more than ever it is almost a non-fictitious account of our sad reality. As for using once upon a time to cover that up, that’s what writers do, they cover up (or try to) inherent weaknesses in their storylines.
    ‘The terminater’ which was a critically acclaimed and a box office success at its time, had a serious WRITING MISTAKE (which was the backdrop of the story), still that didn’t prevent the movie from achievement,

    Plagiarism is bad, and should be frowned upon, but since you said parts and not the whole movie, it is very HARD nowadays not to find parts that are copied off of others, still deserving their own merit. There are countless examples, but I will mention one most recent.
    ‘The hunger games’ copies A LOT from ‘the running man’ and a bit from ‘the Truman show’, yet alone it is a very good movie and it has gotten very good reviews along with performing well at the box office.

    I TOTALLY agree with you on the scene that she shouts at the men; that was supposedly her ‘Oscar moment’; any actor/actress wants one of these in their movies. Even Jackie Chan tried HORRIBLY for one in the karate kid. lool

    Six million hardly counts as a BIG budget given that some local music-clips can go for as high as $200K if not higher, and that’s for 5 minutes!
    Yes, it is good enough for making a movie that needs not cars blowing up and CGI, but by no means is it a BIG BUDGET! (Given marketing cost that sometimes take for an international movie up to $20M! if not more)

    Nadine has become somewhat of a respected person in the region (or in Lebanon), that is why (I guess) she put her face on the poster despite what you stated (& i agree) she’s not the main character.So, it would help in selling the movie.

    As for modes of marketing, there have been much more shameless marketing techniques, and that’s anyways besides the discussion of the value of the movie on its own.

    Is it good or bad cinema? The debate continues. What I’d like to focus on is that it’s a start or a re-start if you will for Lebanese cinema if I dare dream, and that’s all we movie buffs would appreciate for this artistic country🙂

    I don’t know Nadine personally, but I know she deserves credit for excelling in the music-clip industry and then trying to make room for Lebanese cinema. Whether she is egocentric to the extreme (because egocentric is part of an artist’s peronality, in general) is of no consequence so far to the moviegoers.

    i come to the last point, where you judge those who posted as not being observers but merely mainstream. Well, I could discuss with you till next year the technicalities, evolution and transformation of movies while touching on movies such as inception, fightclub, and the lives of others. I know more than a bit about movies and the technicalities involving them, still I would like to call myself mainstream, and not be in that condescending small group of elitists.

    However, a movie though might and might not have a message, is mainly for entertainment, and entertainment for EVERYBODY not the elite, and it also needs to be financially successful.
    Even while watching a mystery/detective movie, the ‘mainstream’ is not supposed to be all the while trying to outsmart the writer/director but rather giving in to the illusion provided to maximize enjoyment – escapism (of course, the plot should be at least a bit coherent not in the form of Ed Wood movies). Breaking down and discussing the movie comes after an initial screening and knowing what you felt about the movie.

    Yes, this movie like movies in general and life, is not either or, as you mentioned. It can be a great movie and you just didn’t like it and vice versa.
    To say it’s a BAD BAD movie, given that we have no cinema and no audience that are willing to watch Lebanese/Arabic movies is just a tad bit too much, in my humble opinion. yet, I have to respect your opinion, though I wholeheartily am against it.


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