LONDON - The Lebanese feminist anti-sectarian musical comedy has hitherto been a surprisingly under-explored niche in the rich spectrum of world cinema, so it’s to the considerable credit of writer-director-actress Nadine Labaki that she spotted this yawning gap and filled it so studiously. In the wake of her chaotic if pure-hearted sophomore feature “Where Do We Go Now?,” however, it’s probably safe to consider the door on this particular sub-genre swiftly closed. The trouble with Lebanese feminist anti-sectarian musical comedies, as it turns out, is a certain inconsistency of tone, and a hard-working Labaki hasn’t quite found a way around it.
Or perhaps she has. Following a mildly received springtime debut at Cannes, “Where Do We Go Now?” has emerged as the uninvited but ultimately ingratiating party guest of the autumn festival circuit – catching everyone off-guard by taking the Audience Award at the Toronto Film Festival, recently reserved for big-league awards bait of “King’s Speech” proportions, before being adopted by Sony Pictures Classics with a steely eye to the foreign-language Oscar. (Lebanon announced it as their official submission to the Academy shortly after its Toronto triumph.) It’s an unexpected turnaround under any circumstances, made only more surprising by a viewing of the film itself.