Lubna Azabal as Nawal Marwan. Photo by micro-scope, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Incendies (2010/2011)

Opened: 04/22/2011 Limited

Lincoln Plaza04/22/2011 - 06/16/201156 days
Sunshine Cinema04/22/2011 - 06/02/201142 days
The Landmark04/22/2011 - 05/26/201135 days
Laemmle's Town...04/29/2011 - 06/02/201135 days
Laemmle's Play...04/29/2011 - 05/26/201128 days
Kendall Square...05/13/2011 - 06/23/201142 days
Fallbrook 705/20/2011 - 06/02/201114 days
Laemmle's Moni...05/27/2011 - 06/16/201121 days
Culver Plaza T...05/27/2011 - 06/09/201114 days
Claremont 505/27/2011 - 06/02/20117 days
Quad Cinema/NYC06/03/2011 - 07/28/201156 days
Laemmle's Musi...06/17/2011 - 07/07/201121 days
Quad Cinema/NYC08/05/2011 - 08/18/201114 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

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Genre: Canadian Drama (French/Arabic w/English subtitles)

Rated: R for some strong violence and language.


When notary Lebel (Remy Girard) sits down with Jeanne and Simon Marwan (Melissa Desormeaux Poulin, Maxim Gaudette) to read them their mother Nawal's will (Lubna Azabal), the twins are stunned to receive a pair of envelopes -- one for the father they thought was dead and another for a brother they didn't know existed.

In this enigmatic inheritance, Jeanne sees the key to Nawal's retreat into unexplained silence during the final weeks of her life. She immediately decides to go to the Middle East to dig into a family history of which she knows next to nothing.

Simon is unmoved by their mother's posthumous mind games. However, the love he has for his sister is strong, and he soon joins her in combing their ancestral homeland in search of a Nawal who is very different from the mother they knew.

With Lebel's help, the twins piece together the story of the woman who brought them into the world, discovering a tragic fate as well as the courage of an exceptional woman.

An adaptation of Wajdi Mouawad's hit play, INCENDIES is a deeply moving story that brings the extremism and violence of today's world to a starkly personal level, delivering a powerful and poetic testament to the uncanny power of the will to survive.


How did you discover Wajdi Mouawad's play and what were your first impressions?

The same impression as when I first saw Apocalypse Now -- astonished. The play was staged in a very small theatre -- Le Theatre des 4 Sous. I was sitting in the second row, as I'd bought the last tickets for the final performance. The script was like a punch in the jaw and I emerged from the theatre on shaky knees. Right away I knew I was going to make it into a movie.

The movie is visually sumptuous and truly cinematic. How did you foresee that the play had such visual potential?

Incendies has a script like a great classical composer's score: it directly inspires striking images. Moreover, Wajdi's staging is riddled with very powerful theatrical images, of a rare beauty. I couldn't use them because they belonged to the theatrical alphabet, but I was able to go back to their source and translate them into film language. Wajdi provided me some helpful keys.

How were you able to convince Wajdi that it was indeed possible to transfer INCENDIES from the stage to the screen?

Wajdi agreed to lend me Incendies after reading the rough draft of about fifty pages I sent him. He gave me the best present possible -- creative freedom. He simply gave me carte blanche. I think it is the only way to do a successful adaptation. The author has to allow you to make your own errors.

Neither the film nor the play explicitly names the Middle Eastern country where the story is set. Can you comment on this?

Beirut or Daresh? This question haunted me throughout the process of adapting the script to the screen. I decided to follow the play's lead and set my film in an imaginary space like Costa Gavras's "Z" so as to free it from any political bias. The film is about politics but is also apolitical. The play's purpose was to delve into the subject of anger and not to fuel such anger. And the setting of Incendies is a historical minefield.

INCENDIES is dramatic to the point of being almost operatic. The boldness actually makes the material truly tragic and elevating, rather than hopelessly sad and melodramatic. What inspired you to make a film where emotions are played so strongly?

To transpose such a dramatic text to the screen while avoiding melodrama, I opted for the sobriety of raw realism, while retaining the mythological factor in the play via natural light and shadows. Emotion had to avoid being an end in itself but a means of achieving the catharsis effect sought. INCENDIES is also Jeanne and Simon's journey towards the source of their mother's hatred. This is a very universal quest and it touches me deeply. But I admit that it took a long time to achieve the film's dramatic balance in the screenplay. Each sequence could have inspired a feature film!

INCENDIES has a stunning cast. How did you find all these great actors?

INCENDIES has a cast drawing on some professional actors and several nonprofessional actors located in Jordan. Lara Attala, the Jordanian casting director, wanted to approach Iraqi refugees to offer them work. They contributed a great deal to the movie. The challenge was to work on everyone's accents and aim for an Arabic accent from the Golan region. Some of the professional actors were North African and had to practically learn another language to be credible.

I saw Lubna Azabal in Paradise Now by Hani abuAssad and Exiles by Tony Gatlif. Constance DeMontefoy, the Paris casting director, suggested that I meet Lubna. She is an extraordinary actress with Nawal's natural strength and fire in her belly. Lubna is Nawal. Casting the twins was an arduous process. Melissa DesormeauxPoulin turned up after a very long process. I looked for Simon everywhere and finally found him very close by: Maxim Gaudette who had appeared in my previous film. I'm very proud of the actors' work in INCENDIES.

Viewers with little or no background on the politics of religion in this unnamed Middle Eastern country in INCENDIES may find it sometimes difficult to figure out whose side Nawal Marwan really is on. In many scenes, your visual language pervades even more a sense of vagueness and unfamiliarity. Somehow, the unknown and lack of knowledge plays to the film's advantage. Can you comment on that?

I deliberately created a political maelstrom around Nawal. The wars that have wracked this region sometimes involved as many as 17 different factions with alliances and betrayals of a baffling complexity for neophytes. To remain faithful to this reality, the political situation had to remain complex without undermining the storyline. Viewers of the film need to understand the gist of what can be understood while accepting that the situation has become too complex to be boiled down to black and white.


Directed by Wajdi Mouawad, Incendies premiered in France on March 14, 2003 at the Hexagone Scene Nationale in Meylan, and in Quebec on May 23, 2003 at Theatre de Quat'sous as part of the 10th Festival de theatre des Ameriques. Part of the original cast included Andree Lachapelle (Nawal), Isabelle Leblanc (Jeanne), Reda Guerenik (Simon), Richard Theriault (Hermile Lebel) and Eric Bernier (Nihad).

Since its original production, the play has been staged in Canada (under the English title Scorched), France, Belgium, Switzerland, Finland, Holland, Japan, Mexico, Germany, Spain, the United States, Australia, Estonia, and Italy.

The play received many awards including the SACD's "Prix de la Francophonie" in 2004 and the French "Syndicat de la critique" Prize for Best Play in 2004.


DENIS VILLENEUVE (Director and screenwriter) Often pegged as one of the most talented filmmakers of his generation, Denis Villeneuve has managed to compel both critics and audiences with his unique visual style and fresh approach to storytelling.

His debut feature, Un 32 aout sur Terre (August 32nd on Earth), was selected by over thirty five international film festivals in 1998, and was part of Cannes' Un Certain Regard, Telluride and Toronto's official selections.

In 2000, his followup film Maelstrom was selected by Sundance, Toronto and over thirty other film festivals around the world. The film received over twenty five international awards, including the prestigious FIPRESCI and SACD awards at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival. At home, the film won 9 Jutra and 5 Genie Awards and once again, represented Canada at the Academy Awards.

In 2008, his short film Next Floor won the Canal+ Award for Best Short Film at the Cannes' Critics Week. The film was also shown in more than 150 festivals around the world where it received more than 50 awards.

In 2009, Polytechnique, his third feature, was released. After a premiere at Cannes' Director's Fortnight, the film was presented in many international festivals including ones in Helsinki, Stockholm, London, Taipei and Gijon. In Canada, Polytechnique was honored with the Best Canadian Film of 2009 Award by the Toronto Film Critics Association, as well as 9 Genie and 5 Jutra Awards, notably for Best Director.

His fourth feature length film, INCENDIES, an adaptation of Wajdi Mouawad's play, is a Canada France coproduction that was shot in Quebec and Jordan.

WAJDI MOUAWAD (Author of the play Incendies; playwright, director, actor)

The theatre's most impressive new voice of the last decade, Wajdi Mouawad, is an equally accomplished playwright, director and actor.

Born in Lebanon in 1968, Mouawad was forced by civil war to flee his homeland at the age of eight. His family's exile began with a stay in France, where he lived until he permanently immigrated to Montreal in 1983. There he studied theatre and earned a diploma in acting from the National Theatre School. After graduating he acted in, wrote and directed a number of productions for the company he founded with Isabelle Leblanc, Theatre O Parleur. In 1990 and 1991 alone he wrote three plays and it was during this time that his career as a theatre director truly began. His work as a director led him to explore an eclectic series of complex worlds. In 1997, he made a significant transition with his play Littoral (based on his original idea, written in collaboration with Isabelle Leblanc), an experience he repeated with Reves, and later Incendies and Forets. From 2000 to 2004, he was artistic director at Theatre de Quat'Sous in Montreal. Then, in 2005, he founded a pair of creative sister companies on both side of the Atlantic: Montreal's Abe carre ce carre (codirector Emmanuel Schwartz) and Paris-based Au carre de l'hypotenuse. In 2007 he took the reins as artistic director for the French theatre section at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. He also works closely with Theatre d'aujourd'hui in Montreal.

In 2009, his association with the Avignon Festival signaled the arrival of an artist who for twenty years had been quietly creating a universally recognized body of work of dramatic power. That same year, already an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Mouawad was awarded the Grand Prix du theatre by the Academie francaise, a tribute to his entire body of dramatic works.

LUBNA AZABAL (Nawal Marwan)

A native of Belgium, Lubna Azabal studied in Brussels at the Kleine Academie and the Conservatoire Royal before launching her acting career.

She is best known for her performance in Habbu Assad's political thriller Paradise Now, which won the 2006 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. Additional film credits include Loin by Andre Techine, Aram by Robert Kechichan, Un monde presque paisible by Michel Deville, Exils by Tony Gatlif (Cannes 2004 -- award for Best Director), Strangers by Tadmor & Nattiv (for which she won the Jerusalem Film Festival's award for most promising new actress), 24 Measures by Jalil Lespert, Body of Lies by Ridley Scott and Here by Braden King. She will appear in Alexandre Arcady's next film, Comme les 5 doigts de la main, Gabriel Range's I am Slave and Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus.

On television, she has appeared in Bajo el mismo cielo (Under the Same Sky), On acheve bien les DJ and in the recent BBC drama Occupation.


At six years old, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin already had the notion to approach a casting agency. The bold and truly talented little girl made her acting debut in a Post Magic Crunch cereal commercial. Soon after she was cast in Jamais deux sans toi (1989-1993), followed by the series Une faim de loup, in which she played the pretty young Marie.

Melissa literally grew up on television. She was casted in Les Heritiers Duval (1994-1996) and a diverse series of roles such as that of Madeleine, the handicapped girl in Asbestos, a FRAP activist in Simone et Chartrand, la suite, Colombe, a drug dealer in Grande Ourse and the disorganized rebel Sarah Bernard in Emma (2000-2004). Since 2004 she has played the hysterical Julia in Il etait une fois dans le trouble.

After taking a break in early 2006 to give birth to her daughter Lea, Melissa made a noticeable return to acting. She appeared in La Promesse as Florence Daveluy and is part of the cast of a new Radio-Canada series, Les Rescapes. Melissa also starred in A vos marques...Party!, and its sequel, both Quebec box-office hits in 2007 and 2009. She also played Sophie Lajoie, a close friend of Dede Fortin, in the energetic film Dede, a travers les brumes.


Maxim Gaudette is on track to a superb acting career. Since graduating from the Conservatoire d'art dramatique de Montreal in 1997, he has played numerous roles in the theatre, film and television.

In the theatre, he gave a memorable performance as Dartagnan in Fernand Rainville's Les trois mousquetaires, earning a nomination for the Masque for best actor in 2002. He has performed at a number of Montreal theatres, working with top directors such as Claude Poissant, Denise Filiatreault, Yves Desgagnes, Martin Faucher, Serge Denoncourt, Alice Ronfart, Normand Chouinard and Rene Richard Cyr.

On television, he landed a part in L'Ombre de l'epervier, and he appeared in Fortier, Grande Ourse and Virginie. He is also part of the cast of the miniseries Lance et compte : la reconquete, la revanche, et le grand duel. Since 2008, he has appeared in Radio-Canada's L'Auberge du chien noir. He will soon play Charles Boivin in Claude Desrosiers' series Les Rescapes.

His film credits include L'Esperance by Stephane Pleszynski and Sans elle by Jean Beaudin. He also appeared in Patrice Sauve's Cheech and Patrick Huard's Les Trois P'tits Cochons. More recently, he played the killer in Denis Villeneuve's Polytechnique, a performance that earned him Jutra and Genie awards for best supporting actor. His latest role in INCENDIES is his second collaboration with Denis Villeneuve.

REMY GIRARD (Notary Jean Lebel)

Remy Girard is not only one of Quebec's greatest actors, but one of the world's finest, as attested by the 2004 New York Times selection of the twenty best actors. The exceptional quality of his performances has earned him countless awards and nominations, and his work has been praised by his peers and by audiences, whose appreciation for him never wanes. In the theatre, Girard has twice won the Gascon-Roux people's choice award for best actor, for his performance as Falstaff in a French-language production of The Merry Wives of Windsor (TNM, 2002) and for his turn as Galileo in Galilee (TNM, 1990). His television work has been rewarded with several Gemeaux, including the award for best actor for his character Papa Bougon in Les Bougons, c'est aussi ca la vie. He has also received Genies for his performances in the feature films Amoureux fou, Jesus de Montreal, Les portes tournantes and Les invasions barbares.

While it is impossible to give a detailed account of a career as tremendously rich and active as Girard's, the highlights alone are impressive. On the big screen, apart from his compelling portrayal of Remy in Denys Arcand's Les invasions barbares, he has appeared in such films as Aurore (Luc Dionne), Un homme et son peche (Charles Biname), Les Boys (Louis Saia), La Florida (Georges Mihalka), Dans le ventre du dragon (Yves Simonneau), Le declin de l'empire americain (Denys Arcand) and Jesus de Montreal (Denys Arcand).

On television he has been in several series and miniseries, but it is his character, Papa Bougon, of the cult hit Les Bougons, c'est aussi ca la vie, that has left an indelible mark on Quebecers' collective imagination.

His many theatrical roles, in both classic and new plays, are a testament to the tremendous talent of this resourceful, uncannily believable actor. His theatre highlights include Sancho Panza (Don Quixote), Argan (Le malade imaginaire) and Estragon (Waiting for Godot).