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For the play, see Incendies (play)
Theatrical poster
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Produced by Luc Déry
Kim McCraw
Screenplay by Denis Villeneuve
Valérie Beaugrand-Champagne
Based on Incendies 
by Wajdi Mouawad
Starring Lubna Azabal
Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin
Maxim Gaudette
Rémy Girard
Allen Altman
Music by Grégoire Hetzel
Cinematography André Turpin
Edited by Monique Dartonne
Distributed by E1 Entertainment (Canada)
Sony Pictures Classics (USA)
Release dates
  • 4 September 2010 (2010-09-04) (Telluride)
  • 17 September 2010 (2010-09-17) (Canada)
Running time
130 minutes
Country Canada
Language French
Budget $6.8 million
Box office CAN$6,838,050[3]

Incendies is a 2010 Canadian mystery drama film written and directed by Denis Villeneuve. Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad's play of the same name, Incendies follows the journey of twin brother and sister as they attempt to unravel the mystery of their mother's life. The film premiered at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals in September 2010 and was released in Quebec on 17 September 2010. In 2011, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. And it won the UPC Audience Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2011.

The film won eight awards at the 31st Genie Awards, including Best Motion Picture, Best Actress (Lubna Azabal), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Overall Sound and Sound Editing.[4] Incendies was named by the New York Times as one of the 10 best films of 2011.[5]


Nawal Marwan, an immigrant to Canada, succumbs to a stroke she suffers at a community swimming pool, and her two children, a brother and sister, receive her final requests in her will. To fulfill her wishes, they must journey to her birthplace.

The movie contains a series of flashbacks to the mother's life. Nawal, a Middle-Eastern Christian is impregnated by a refugee. Nawal's infuriated brothers kill her lover as he and Nawal try to escape. She reveals to her grandmother that she is pregnant. They keep the pregnancy secret in order to save face. Upon the baby's birth, the grandmother tattoos the infant's heel, and they give the baby boy away. Nawal follows her promise to her grandmother to study in Daresh (a fictional city) during which a civil war breaks out. Under threat of war, Nawal returns to find her lost son. War has preceded her arrival as she discovers her son's orphanage at Kfar Khout has been destroyed by Muslim militia led by a man called Chamseddine. She then pretends to be a Muslim to board a bus with other Muslims fleeing to get to the refugee camp in a city called Deressa (another fictional city) where her son is said to have been moved.

On the way to the camp her bus is attacked by armed Christians. She, a Muslim woman and her daughter survive, only to have the bus covered in gasoline to be burnt. Nawal escapes by showing her cross. They would not spare the woman, so Nawal claims the other woman's daughter as her own. However, the daughter runs back to the bus and is shot.

Nawal finally arrives in Deressa. However the whole city has already been razed by Christian militia, including the refugee camp, and her son supposedly died in the massacre. Filled with the desire for revenge, Nawal recognizes the face of a man she sees on a political poster as the same man whose face was on the T-shirts of some of the men in the Christian militia who killed the people during the bus attack she survived. She joins a radical group and is planted as a French tutor for this prominent Christian leader's son, and then assassinates him. She is sent to Kfar Ryat prison for fifteen years, and as prisoner number 72, despite all efforts of her captors, she remains resolute and becomes known as "The Woman Who Sings". Before her release, her enraged captors call upon the torture specialist Abou Tareq to break her spirit and stop her singing. He rapes her repeatedly and she gives birth to twins in the jail. A nurse secretly saves the babies and returns them to Nawal after her release. Nawal emigrates to Canada with the twins.

Upon her death, Nawal leaves a will requesting that her children, Simon and Jeanne, find their father and lost brother. Simon refuses, but Jeanne continues on her own, following in her mother's footsteps. She finds her extended family. They refuse to speak to Jeanne because of the shame her mother brought on the family. She then finds the prison and learns from a former employee that her mother was tortured and gave birth in prison. He gives her the name of the nurse who assisted Nawal during childbirth.

Distraught, she calls Simon to join her. He arrives with their mother's former employer from Canada. They find the nurse and ask about the baby who was born in prison. The nurse reveals their mother gave birth to twins, Janaan and Sarwan, whom she safeguarded.

A local notary identifies the name of their lost half-brother as Nihad of May. They trace the warlord who conducted the revenge attack on Kfar Khout and destroyed the orphanage. Simon learns that the warlord had spared the children and taken them in and trained them to fight alongside them, that Nihad became a sniper and searched for his mother, after which he became crazed with war but was refused the chance to become a martyr by the warlord. He returned to Daresh as a sniper and was eventually captured by the enemy. They turned him to their side and trained him to be a prison torturer. He was sent to the Kfar Ryat prison where Simon's mother was held. The warlord reveals that Nihad adopted the name Abou Tareq.

Having discovered that their father is their half-brother, they find out that he too had moved to Canada. They find him, and deliver the letters from their mother—one for the father and one for the son. We learn that after many years living in Canada, while swimming in a pool, Nawal had spotted a man with a tattooed heel. She approached him and although he did not recognise her, she realised upon seeing his face that he was her rapist in prison, and also her long lost son. She suffered a stroke from the shock and eventually died, giving instructions to her employer, a notary, about the letters and instructions for her children. Their task fulfilled, the children are now allowed to leave an engraved headstone at her grave.

Her first son, Nihad, having read the letters, realises what he had done to his own mother, and visits her grave.


  • Abdelghafour Elaaziz as Abou Tarek
  • Allen Altman as Notary Maddad
  • Mohamed Majd as Chamseddine
  • Nabil Sawalha as Fahim
  • Baya Belal as Maika
  • Bader Alami as Nicolas
  • Karim Babin as Chamseddine's guard
  • Anthony Ecclissi as Lifeguard
  • Joyce Raie as Student Journalist
  • Yousef Shweihat as Sharif
  • Celine Soulier as French Journalist
  • Mher Karakashian as Chamseddine's assistant


Parts of the story were based on the life of Souha Bechara.[6][7][8] The story is based on events that happened during the Lebanese civil war, but the film-makers attempted to make the location of the plot ambiguous.[9][10] The film was shot in Montreal and Amman[11] and its soundtrack includes two tracks from the Radiohead album Amnesiac, "You and Whose Army" and "Like Spinning Plates".

  • Luc Déry
  • Kim McCraw
  • Anthony Doncque
  • Milena Poylo
  • Gilles Sacuto
Associate producers


Critical response[edit]

Incendies received generally positive reviews from critics. Kevin N. Laforest of the Montreal Film Journal gave it 3.5 stars out of 4 and wrote, "Villeneuve has done his best work yet here."[12] The Gazette‍ '​s Brendan Kelly gave the film a rare 5 out of 5 stars and called it a "masterpiece." The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reports 92% positive reviews based on 118 reviews with an average score of 7.9/10.[13] The film also has a score of 82 on metacritic based on 34 reviews[14]

Both Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper picked the film as their favorites to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.[15][16] However, it lost to In a Better World from Denmark.


On 22 September 2010, Incendies was chosen to represent Canada at the 83rd Academy Awards in the category of Best Foreign Language Film.[17] It made the shortlist on 19 January 2011, one of nine films and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film on 25 January 2011.[18][19]


Official selection[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ (French)
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Villeneuve’s Incendies wins eight Genies, including best picture". The Globe and Mail, March 10, 2011.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Sum, Glenn (20 January 2011). "Denis is on Fire". Now Toronto. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  10. ^ Nestruck, J. Kelly (18 January 2011). "Will Denis Villeneuve's ‘Incendies' light a fire under Oscar? - The Globe and Mail". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). 
  11. ^ "Filming locations for Incendies". Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  12. ^ "Incendies". Montreal Film Journal. 14 September 2010. Retrieved 26 January 2011. 
  13. ^ "Incendies Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Canada picks Incendies to vie for Oscar". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 29 September 2010. [dead link]
  18. ^ Duchesne, André (19 January 2011). "Oscars: Incendies dans les demi-finalistes". (in French). Retrieved 26 January 2011. 
  19. ^ "9 Foreign Language Films Continue to Oscar Race". Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  20. ^ "Incendies" (PDF). Sony Pictures Classics. n.d. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  21. ^ "Incendies wins the 2010 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award". Toronto Film Critics' Association. 12 January 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  22. ^ "Incendies wins 10 Evening News International Award for Best Feature Film". Adelaide Film Festival. 7 March 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Incendies". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. n.d. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  25. ^ Thomas, Liz (18 January 2012). "Bafta battle: Britain v France (and Maggie takes on Marilyn)". Daily Mail (London). 

External links[edit]