Colonialism, Christians and Refugees: 'Incendies' Searches for a Past in a Country Wracked by Civil War
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Denis Villeneuve, a soft-spoken filmmaker in his early ‘40s, explained during an interview that the film is a metaphor for the fact that children have to rid themselves of their parents’ anger. The character of Simon Marwan—the angry young man who has no desire to dig into his mother’s Arab past—could be the director’s alter ego. Said Villeneuve, “What is a Canadian who knows about snow doing making a film about war?”
But Villeneuve was transfixed when he first saw playwright Wajdi Mouawad’s 3.5-hour long Incendies in 2004. After several years and many rewrites of his adaptation, he says Mouawad saw the film four times and embraced it. Nawal’s long-suffering character was based on a historical figure, a woman named Souad Beshara, who attempted to murder a major Christian militia leader and spent 10 years in a southern Lebanon prison.
Incendiesis an Arab story yet only one of myriad possible stories that Americans can discover about the Levant where it takes place. The film was shot in just 25 days on a modest budget yet it has the feel of a vast and sweeping epic. The storytelling is dense, the characters brooding and unforgettable. Villenueve has made a deeply personal and poetic film that stands as a testament to the will to survive and protect one’s family from the horrors of war.
Incendiesopens Friday, April 22, in New York and Los Angeles.