Nadine Labaki, Where Do We Go Now?
Lebanese actress-filmmaker Nadine Labaki's second feature, the musical Et maintenant, on va où? / Where Do We Go Now?, was the surprise winner of the Toronto Film Festival's Cadillac People's Choice Award. Toronto doesn't have a jury like Cannes, Berlin, or Venice; festivalgoers pick the winner each year.
Apparently inspired by Aristophanes' Lysistrata – which presents women as peace lovers and men as (sex-starved) war lovers – Where Do We Go Now? tells the story of female Lebanese villagers who take some unusual steps to prevent Muslim-Christian strife in their area. Those include hiring Ukrainian casino showgirls and serving hash-laced cookies.
Labaki's feature-film debut, the charming romantic comedy-drama Caramel, had its North American premiere at the Toronto festival in 2007. That movie didn't win any awards in Toronto; Labaki wasn't expecting any for Where Do We Go Now?, either, what with the English-language media insisting that only Hollywood (or at least English-language) movies matter, e.g., Alexander Payne's The Descendants, Bennett Miller's Moneyball, Steve McQueen's Shame.
As a result, Labaki wasn't around to pick up her award, which comes with a $15,000 cash prize. In an emailed statement read at the awards gala ceremony, she described her emotional state: "I'm running around jumping up and down at the Frankfurt airport!"
Where Do We Go Now? is Lebanon's submission for the 2011 Academy Awards. The country now has a good chance of getting its first-ever Oscar nomination in that category.
Last year's People's Choice Award winner, Tom Hooper's The King's Speech, went on to win the Best Picture Academy Award. Since 1978, nine Toronto winners have gone on to win Best Picture or Best Foreign Language Film Oscars. In addition to The King's Speech, there were Slumdog Millionaire (2008), Tsotsi (2005), Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000), American Beauty (1999), Life Is Beautiful (1997; Oscar win for the following year), Antonia's Line (1995), The Official Story (1985), and Chariots of Fire (1981).
Other Oscar-friendly Toronto winners include Precious, Eastern Promises, Hotel Rwanda, Whale Rider, Amelie, Shine, The Fisher King, Cyrano de Bergerac, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, The Decline of the American Empire, Places in the Heart, and The Big Chill.
Where Do We Go Now? photo: TIFF.