Denis Villeneuve
Canada, France
2010
130
minutes
French, Arabic w. English Subtitles
R

Villeneuve worked for five years to bring Lebanese-Canadian writer Wadji Mouawad’s award-winning play to the screen, and the result was one of the most acclaimed Canadian features of the decade, earning eight Genies and an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Deftly shifting between two timelines, Incendies tells the story of fraternal twins, Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Polytechnique’s Maxim Gaudette), who are trying to fulfill their mother Nawal’s (Lubna Azabal) dying wish to locate two lost family members. Their quest, which takes them from Montreal to an unnamed Middle Eastern country patterned after Lebanon, is intercut with scenes set in the 1970s depicting Nawal’s difficult adolescence in the midst of a religious civil war. The complexity of the plot is offset by the stark, haunting clarity of Villeneuve’s imagery: swimmers moving through a pool, child soldiers being shorn for battle, a school bus in flames against a desert backdrop. “Muscular, emotional filmmaking of the highest order” (The Guardian).