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Nadine Labaki Musical 'Where Do We Go Now?': Toronto Surprise Winner

Nadine Labaki, Et maintenant on va ou, Where Do We Go Now?
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.

'Darfur Now' screening

Cameron Bailey reviews Ted Brauns (right) first theatrical documentary, Darfur Now, screening today at the Toronto Film Festival:

"The ongoing atrocities in Darfur, Sudan, remain one of the worlds great challenges not just to our politicians but to each of us individually. Eventually, when the crisis ends, what can we say we did to help resolve it? This is the question that drives Ted Brauns urgent, necessary new documentary. Darfur Now follows six people who have taken up the challenge to help stop the murder, rape and displacement the Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit people of Darfur have suffered since 2003.

"One of those six is a movie star, and it is to this films great credit that his work on Darfur is stitched seamlessly together with the others efforts. Don Cheadle first became active in humanitarian crises in Africa after starring in Hotel RwandaDarfur Now shows him continuing to spend the currency of his celebrity to make the situation in Darfur more widely known and impossible to dismiss. Were trying to speak in a loud voice now, he says, so that people cannot say "I was unaware." They can only say "I acted" or "I stood by."

"The title Darfur Now is no accident. This film insists that since the crimes continue now, now is the time to act."

The other five people portrayed in the film are fighter Hejewa Adam, UN World Food Program worker Pablo Recalde, displaced persons camp worker Ahmed Mohammed Abakar, The Hagues International Criminal Courts Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, and U.S. activist Adam Sterling.

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