We catch up with the Lebanese film maker about her new film, Where Do We Go Now? about a community divided by religion trying to find common ground and stay together. . . with humour.
The film deals with a lot of controversial issues.
I knew this would be a bit delicate or sometimes even dangerous to talk about these subjects. But I think it was very natural for me, because cinema or film making is a way of expressing myself. In the film it’s true I’m talking about religion, about Christians and Muslims, but this film could have happened, these stories, these problems or these conflicts could have happened between two neighbors or two football teams or two families. There’s a French saying that says who doesn’t risk has nothing. They might be offended during the whole thing but at the end everybody is more tolerant. And that’s what I wanted to do.
Still, we laughed. It’s funny!
I think humour is a good way of healing. I think when you get to laugh about your flaws or laugh about the things that you see that are not working, I think it creates a distance. And it’s a way of also being a little bit ironic towards what’s happening. Sometimes the situation is so absurd you can’t help but laugh about what’s happening.
The whole film is centered around a group of women trying to keep their community together. Why tell the women’s side?
Simply because I am a women, and I am aware of my responsibilities as a women in this world we live in. I don’t think it’s only because of men that the world is not going that great. I think we have a responsibility in everything that is happening in the world and we need to be aware of that. I’m talking about my responsibility as a mother as well—that’s why I decided to talk about mothers in the film as well.
You used a lot of non-professional actors this time around. Why?
I like to give you the impression as a viewer that you’re watching people that look like you. That are like you, that might be your next door neighbor or might be your cousin or uncle or grandmother or mother or whatever. And I tried to as much as I can to flirt with reality. So it’s when you’re watching that film you wonder sometimes is this an actor or is this a stolen moment, is this true, is this really happening? I like to experiment with reality, and it’s a good way to do it with non-professional actors. Of course it’s not easy, but sometimes there are some very very special and spontaneous moments that are so precious that you forget all the trouble.
You were in it yourself! What was that like, writing, directing, and starring?
It’s fun. But it’s not easy, it’s really really hard. You have to wear different hats during the shoot. It mainly allows me to be very close to my actors, it creates a very warm and strong bond between us, because I’m there with them. I’m an actress as they are, not the director who is looking at them from behind the camera. And because I’m there I can do things that are unexpected very quickly and react very instinctively to what is happening, sometimes take the scene different directions. Of course, it’s not easy for the technical crew, sometimes they have a hard time following what is happening, but it works for me.
Right, so when people leave the theatre, is there a message you want them to take away?
It’s not really a message, it’s just my way of maybe exploring an alternative thinking. Whatever happens in the film at the end is not the solution of course. Who am I to have the absolute solution or resolution for everything? But I just want to explore a different way of thinking. I’m always thinking about why are things happening this way, why couldn’t they happen a different way. It’s just that. It’s not really a message or a solution, it’s just an invitation maybe to explore something.
Where Do We Go Now? opens in theatres this month.