Now it is time for my final entry in this yearlong celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Toronto International Film Festival. It has become the general assumption that winning the TIFF People’s Choice Award automatically means that the film is destined for at least an Oscar nomination. This was not the case for the 2011 winner Where Do We Go Now?. While the film was indeed Lebanon’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards, it did not get nominated and has arguably become a bit forgotten in the last four years. Where Do We Go Now? focuses on a Lebanese town occupied by both Christians and Muslims. As civil strife develops throughout the country, tensions between the two religious groups begin to build, with a few villagers, such as cafe owner Amal (Nadine Labaki, also the film’s director), struggling to keep the peace.
Even if Where Do We Go Now? will go down in history as one of the winners of the TIFF People’s Choice Award that didn’t really go anywhere, it can be still be seen as a very timely movie. With the bulk of the film focusing on the tension between Christians and Muslims, it corresponds greatly with the current political situation in the world. The film switches back and forth between showing this conflict through a comedic light, while also amping up the drama at certain points. There are also some scenes in the film, where Where Do We Go Now? practically turns into a musical, which was quite an unexpected turn of events.
While I have to say that I liked Where Do We Go Now?, it does leave me scratching my head about why the film ended up winning the People’s Choice Award at TIFF in 2011. I remember during the festival that year hearing a lot of buzz about The Artist, which went on to win Best Picture at the next year’s Oscars. As such, I was assuming that the film was going to walk away with the People’s Choice Award, however the award instead went to this Lebanese film.
I’m not saying that the People Choice Award for Where Do We Go Now? is incorrect and it actually proves in some way that the award isn’t always predictable. However, the acclaim for the film more or less ended with that People’s Choice win and the film never even ended up receiving that much of a theatrical release, even though it’s readily available on Netflix, which is how I watched it.
As such, it is appropriate that I end off this celebration of the Toronto International Film Festival by bring some attention back to a recent People’s Choice Award winner that has since fallen through the cracks. Where Do We Go Now? is still a very timely film and it should be watched with the current political situation of the world in mind.