When twins go in search of a father they thought was dead and a brother they didn’t know existed, they discover the mother they never fully knew.
If you thought you had identity problems, think again. The Oscar-nominated Incendies unravels a mystery that’s been haunting one Arab Canadian family for almost forty years. And it all begins when the matriarch puts down instructions in two letters that she asks her employer to give to her children upon her death.
Jeanne (Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin) is to find her father and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) is to search for his brother. Given that they thought their father was dead and they had no idea about any other siblings, it’s a bewildering task. Armed with a twenty year-old photo of her mother, Jeanne sets off into a war-torn landscape to trace a tortuous path back to her origins. Simon is reluctant to follow but what Jeanne unearths motivates him to undertake a quest of his own.
This fascinating film is told along several different time lines. It starts with a scene where a young boy with three tattoos on his ankle is getting his head shaved to Radiohead’s song ‘You and Whose Army’. We then follow the twins on their respective journeys of discovery and intertwined with all this is the mother’s parallel story from the past. Lubna Azabal gives an amazing performance as Narwal Marwan, a young woman caught up in a political struggle as she embarks on a desperate search for her first born.
The film is based on a four hour-long stage play by Wadji Mouawad who fled Lebanon with his family during the civil war and later settled in Montreal. Inspired by the story of a Palestinian woman who spent 10 years in jail for attempting to kill a military chief in south Lebanon in the ‘80s, Mouawad’s play captivated Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve, who then transposed the material onto an unnamed country somewhere in the Middle East.
Shot in Jordan using many untrained actors from a community of Iraqi refugees, some of who also performed in Kathryn Bigelow’s film The Hurt Locker, this screen adaptation is an incredible tale of one woman’s struggle for peace in a land where religion means war.
Incendies translates as “scorched” and there are many things in the film that that could apply to; the landscape, the people, the emotions. The anger and pain contained in one family is extrapolated out to an entire society. But the resolution that the film offers gives us some hope that there might be a way to end the cycle of violence that persists in so many Middle Eastern countries. And hope is a powerful force.Get Incendies