It’s great to see more female actors moving behind the camera, since they so often bring a fresh and distinctive vision. That’s decidedly true of Lebanese director Nadine Labaki, who impressed with Caramel, revolving around a Beirut hairdressing salon, and with her latest project emerges as a potentially major filmmaker.

The action in her ambitious follow-up moves to a mountain village where a character played by Labaki runs the sun-drenched local café – a friendly meeting place for the town’s mixed population of Muslims and Christians. The second symbol of convivial relations is the impromptu outdoor TV the villagers come together to view on a nearby hillside (the signal in the village being too weak).

But happy days are threatened when news arrives of a sectarian clash elsewhere. As tensions increase and the men become fractious, their wives and mothers unite to mount a series of outlandish schemes to distract them from thoughts of violence. One of their more outrageous tricks is the importation of touring Ukrainian strippers.

Labaki has made something absolutely bold and unique with this tragi-comedy. Using local villagers in many roles, the film has tremendous energy and is filled with humour (and even the odd musical sequence) without...