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 $6.5 million[2]
Box office $16,038,343.[3]

Incendies (French: [ɛ̃.sɑ̃.di], "Fires") is a 2010 Canadian mystery-drama film written and directed by Denis Villeneuve. Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad's play of the same name, Incendies stars Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette and Rémy Girard. The story concerns Canadian twins who travel to their mother's native country in the Middle East to uncover her hidden past, tied in with a bloody civil war. Although the country is unnamed, the events in the film are heavily influenced by the Lebanese Civil War and in particular the story of prisoner Souha Bechara.

The film premiered at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals in September 2010 and was released in Quebec on 17 September 2010. The film met with critical acclaim in Canada, Quebec and abroad and won numerous awards. In 2011, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It also won eight awards at the 31st Genie Awards, including Best Motion Picture.


Following the death of Nawal Marwan, a Canadian immigrant, her two children, fraternal twins Jeanne and Simon, meet with French Canadian notary Jean Lebel, a friend of their mother. Nawal's will makes reference to not keeping a promise, denying her a proper gravestone and casket, unless Jeanne and Simon track down their mysterious brother, whose existence they were previously unaware of, and their father, whom they believed was dead.

A series of flashbacks reveal Nawal came from a Christian Arab family in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, and that she fell in love with a Palestinian refugee, resulting in her pregnancy. Her family murders her lover and nearly shoots her as an honour killing, but her grandmother spares her, tattoos the baby and abandons him, and sends Nawal to the fictional city of Daresh. While at school, a civil war and war crimes break out as Christian nationalists attack Muslims and refugees, with Nawal opposing the war on human rights grounds. Her son's orphanage in Kfar Khout is destroyed by the nationalists, and unknown to her, her son has been rescued by a Muslim warlord, Chamseddine, who converts him into an Islamic child soldier. Seeking revenge for the loss of her son, Nawal joins the Muslim fighters and shoots a nationalist leader. Afterwards, she is imprisoned in Kfar Ryat and raped by torturer Abou Tareq. She consequently gives birth to the twins.

After travelling to her mother's native country, Jeanne uncovers this past, and persuades Simon, who is angry with his mother's unusual personality, to join her. With help from Lebel, they learn their brother's name is Nihad of May and track down Chamseddine. Simon meets with him personally, and he reveals the war-mad Nihad was captured by the nationalists, joined their army, and took the name Abou Tareq, making him both the twins' half-brother and father. Nihad had immigrated to Canada and Nawal only learned his true identity after recognizing him at a Canadian swimming pool and seeing his tattoo. The twins find Nihad in Canada and deliver Nawal's letters to him without speaking to him. Nawal gets a gravestone, which Nihad visits.


  • Lubna Azabal as Nawal Marwan
  • Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin as Jeanne Marwan
  • Maxim Gaudette as Simon Marwan
  • Rémy Girard as Jean Lebel
  • Abdelghafour Elaaziz as Abou Tarek/Nihad "Nihad de Mai" Harmanni
  • 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



Director Denis Villeneuve adapted Wajdi Mouawad's play Incendies after seeing it performed in Montreal in 2004.

Parts of the story were based on the life of Souha Bechara.[4][5] The story is based on events that happened during the Lebanese Civil War of 1975 to 1990, but the filmmakers attempted to make the location of the plot ambiguous.[6][7]

Director Denis Villeneuve first saw Wajdi Mouawad's play Incendies at Théâtre de Quat'Sous in Montreal in 2004, commenting "I had this strong intuition that I was in front of a masterpiece."[7] Villeneuve acknowledged unfamiliarity with Arab culture, but was drawn to Incendies as "a modern story with a sort of Greek tragedy element."[8] In adapting the screeenplay, Villeneuve, while keeping the story structure and characters, replaced "all" the dialogue, even envisioning a silent film, abandoning the idea due to expense.[7] He showed Mouawad some completed scenes to convince the initially reluctant playwright to grant permission for the film.[7] Villeneuve spent five years working on the screenplay, in between directing two films.[9] Mouawad later praised the film as "brilliantly elegant" and gave Villeneuve full credit.[10] The project had a budget of $6.5 million,[2] and received funding from Telefilm Canada.[11]


Belgian actress Lubna Azabal was cast as Nawal after an extensive search, and won Best Actress at Belgium's Magritte Awards and Canada's Genie Awards.

For the part of Nawal, Villeneuve said he conducted an extensive search for actresses across Canada.[9] He considered casting the main character to be the most challenging, and at one point contemplated using two or three actresses to play the character, since the story spans four decades.[12] He finally met Moroccan Belgian actress Lubna Azabal in Paris, intrigued by her "expressive and eloquent" face in Paradise Now (2005).[9] Although she was 30, Villeneuve thought she appeared 18 and could play the part throughout the entire film, using makeup.[12]

Villeneuve selected Canadian actress Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin to play Jeanne, saying the role required listening skills and Désormeaux-Poulin is "a very generous actress."[9] Before Incendies, Désormeaux-Poulin was mainly known for "light fare."[13] Montreal actor Allen Altman, who played a notary, worked with a dialect coach for hours to develop a blend of the French and Arab accents before auditioning.[14] While shooting in Jordan, to research his role, actor Maxim Gaudette toured a Palestinian refugee camp near Amman.[15]


Some of the 15 days of filming in Jordan was done in Amman.

The film was shot in Montreal and Jordan.[14] The film took 40 days to shoot, of which 15 were spent in Jordan, with Villeneuve aiming to film no scene without being sure it wouldn't be cut.[2]

For the scenes filmed in Jordan, Villeneuve used a Lebanese and Iraqi crew, though he feared the war scenes would be too reminiscent of bad experiences for them. However, he said the Arab crew members felt "It’s important that those sorts of stories are on the screen."[16] Some of the filming in Jordan took place in the capital of Amman.[1] To recreate Beirut, art director André-Line Beauparlant built up rock and debris on a street in Amman.[15]


Incendies was officially selected to play in the 2010 Venice Film Festival, 2010 Telluride Film Festival, 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, 2011 Sundance Film Festival and 2011 New Directors/New Films Festival.[17] The film opened in Toronto and Vancouver in January 2011.[7]

In the United States, the film was distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.[8] When the film was screened in Beirut in March 2011, Villeneuve claimed "a lot of people said to me that we should show this film to their children, to show them what they had been through."[16]


Box office

In Canada, the film passed the $1 million mark at the box office by October 2010.[18] By the end of April 2011, the film grossed $4.7 million.[19] In Quebec theatres alone, Incendies made $3 million.[2] It was considered a success in the country.[16]

According to Box Office Mojo, the film completed its theatrical run on September 29, 2011 after making $2,071,33 in the U.S.[20] According to The Numbers, the film grossed $6,857,096 in North America and $9,181,247 in other territories for a worldwide total of $16,038,343.[3]

Critical reception

Incendies received highly positive reviews from critics. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reports 92% positive reviews based on 119 reviews with an average score of 7.9/10.[21] The film also has a score of 80 on Metacritic based on 42 reviews.[22]

The film enjoyed a positive reception in its country and province. Kevin N. Laforest of the Montreal Film Journal gave it 3.5 stars out of four and wrote, "Villeneuve has done his best work yet here."[23] The Montreal Gazette's Brendan Kelly gave the film five stars and called it a "masterwork."[24] Marc Cassivi of La Presse claimed the film transcended the play.[25] Peter Howell, writing for The Toronto Star, gave the film four stars, called it "a commanding film of multiple revelations," and the best of 2010, and praised Lubna Azabal as "first amongst equals."[26] However, Martin Morrow of CBC News was unimpressed, saying, "Villeneuve’s screen adaptation strips away all this finely textured flesh and leaves only the bare bones."[27] University of Berlin film scholar Claudia Kotte wrote the film, along with Monsieur Lazhar (2011) and War Witch (2012), represent a break in the Cinema of Quebec from focus on local history to global concerns, with Incendies adding Oedipal themes.[28]

Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half stars, saying "it wants to be much more than a thriller and succeeds in demonstrating how senseless and futile it is to hate others because of their religion," and Azabal "is never less than compelling."[29] He later selected the film as his favourite to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film,[30] though it lost to In a Better World from Denmark. Leonard Maltin also gave the film three and a half stars, referring it as "tough, spellbinding."[31] Ty Burr, writing for the The Boston Globe, gave the film three and a half stars, praising a bus scene as harrowing but saying the climax is "a plot twist that feels like one coincidence too far," that "leaves the audience doing math on their fingers rather than reeling in shock."[32] Incendies was named by Stephen Holden of The New York Times as one of the 10 best films of 2011.[33] Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times called it Villeneuve’s "best-realized work yet."[34] A number of reviews complimented use of the song "You and Whose Army?" by Radiohead.[9][27][35][36] Criticisms have included charges of melodrama and orientalism.[37]


On 22 September 2010, Incendies was chosen to represent Canada at the 83rd Academy Awards in the category of Best Foreign Language Film.[38] 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.[39][40]

It won eight awards at the 31st Genie Awards, including Best Motion Picture, Best Actress for Azabal and Best Director for Villeneuve.[41] It also won the Prix Jutra for Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actress (Azabal), Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costumes and Sound.

Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film Denis Villeneuve Nominated [42]
Adelaide Film Festival International Award for Best Feature Film Incendies Won [43]
Atlantic Film Festival Best Canadian Feature Denis Villeneuve Won [18]
Boston Society of Film Critics Best Foreign Language Film Incendies Won [44]
BAFTA Awards Film Not in the English Language Incendies Nominated [45]
César Awards Best Foreign Film Incendies Nominated [46]
Chicago Film Critics Association Best Foreign Language Film Incendies Nominated [47]
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Film Incendies Nominated [48]
Genie Awards Best Motion Picture Luc Déry and Kim McCraw Won [49]
Best Direction Denis Villeneuve Won
Best Actress Lubna Azabal Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Denis Villeneuve Won
Best Art Direction André-Line Beauparlant Nominated
Best Cinematography André Turpin Won
Best Editing Monique Dartonne Won
Best Sound Jean Umansky and Jean-Pierre Laforce Won
Best Sound Editing Sylvain Bellemare, Simon Meilleur and Claire Pochon Won
Best Make-Up Katryn Casault Nominated
International Film Festival Rotterdam UPC Audience Award Incendies Won [50]
Jutra Awards Best Film Luc Déry, Kim McCraw and micro scope Won [51]
Best Direction Denis Villeneuve Won
Best Screenplay Denis Villeneuve Won
Best Actress Lubna Azabal Won
Best Actress Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin Nominated
Best Art Direction André-Line Beauparlant Won
Best Cinematography André Turpin Won
Best Editing Monique Dartonne Won
Best Sound Sylvain Bellemare, Jean Umansky and Jean-Pierre Laforce Won
Best Costume Design Sophie Lefebvre Won
Lumières Awards Best French-Language Film Incendies Won [52]
Magritte Awards Best Actress Lubna Azabal Won [53]
New York Film Critics Circle Best Foreign Language Film Incendies Runner-up [54]
Toronto Film Critics Association Best Canadian Film Incendies Won [55]
Toronto International Film Festival Best Canadian Feature Film Denis Villeneuve Won [18]
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Best Canadian Film Incendies Won [56]
Best Director of a Canadian Film Denis Villeneuve Won
Best Actress in a Canadian Film Lubna Azabal Won
Best Supporting Actor in a Canadian Film Maxim Gaudette Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Canadian Film Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin Nominated
Vancouver International Film Festival Best Canadian Feature Film Denis Villeneuve Won [57]

See also


  1. 1 2 Chabot, Simon (27 June 2009). "Les coulisses d'Incendies : plonger dans le décor". La Presse. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Quebecers all benefit when we can tell our own stories," Montreal Gazette, 1 March 2011.
  3. 1 2 "Incendies (2010)". The Numbers. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  4. Snaije, Olivia (2 February 2011). "Seeing yourself re-made as fiction". The Daily Star. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  5. Perreault, Laura-Julie (8 March 2009). "L'ex-kamikaze Soha Béchara dénonce le sort des Palestiniens". La Presse. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  6. Sum, Glenn (20 January 2011). "Denis is on Fire". Now Toronto. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 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.
  8. 1 2 Brooks, Brian (15 February 2011). "OSCARS 2011: 'Incendies' Director Denis Villeneuve". IndieWire. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Gritten, David (18 June 2011). "Incendies: Universal tragedy with fire in its heart". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  10. Wyatt, Nelson (24 February 2011). "Author of Incendies, the play, praises movie version". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  11. Baillie, Andrea (25 January 2011). "Denis Villeneuve's 'Incendies' nominated for Best Foreign Film". CTV News. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  12. 1 2 Dawson, Thomas (2 January 2015). "Blood lines: Denis Villeneuve on Incendies". British Film Institute. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  13. Kelly, Brendan (15 June 2012). "How Incendies changed Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin's life". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  14. 1 2 Macdonald, Gayle (18 February 2011). "Allen Altman gets fired up about Oscar-nominated 'Incendies'". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  15. 1 2 Chabot, Simon (27 June 2009). "Incendies: Parfum de guerre". La Presse. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  16. 1 2 3 Jenkins, Mark (15 May 2011). "'Incendies' filmmaker takes on war in a fictional, but very real, Middle East". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  17. "Incendies" (PDF). Sony Pictures Classics. n.d. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  18. 1 2 3 "Incendies Passes $1M Mark at the Canadian Box Office". Telefilm Canada. 5 October 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  19. Afan, Emily Claire (3 May 2011). "Hot Sheet: Top 5 Canadian Films (April 23 – April 29, 2011)". Playback. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  20. "Incendies (U.S. only)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  21. "Incendies Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 4 February 2011.
  22. "Incendies". Metacritic. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  23. "Incendies". Montreal Film Journal. 14 September 2010. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  24. Brendan Kelly, "Incendies a Masterwork," Montreal Gazette, 17 September 2010, p. C1.
  25. Cassivi, Marc (16 September 2010). "Incendies : d'une maîtrise remarquable". La Presse. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  26. Howell, Peter (20 January 2011). "Movie review: Villeneuve's 'Incendies' a masterful film". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  27. 1 2 Morrow, Martin (21 October 2010). "Review: Incendies". CBC News. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  28. Claudia Kotte, "Zero Degrees of Separation: Post-Exilic Return in Denis Villeneuve's Incendies," Cinematic Homecomings, Bloomsbury Academic, 2015, p. 288.
  29. Ebert, Roger (27 April 2011). "Incendies". Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  30. "Roger Ebert picks Canadian film as Oscar favourite". CTV News. 11 February 2011. Archived from the original on 19 January 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  31. Leonard Maltin, Leonard Maltin's 2015 Movie Guide, Penguin Group, 2014.
  32. Burr, Ty (13 May 2011). "Incendies". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  33. Holden, Stephen (14 December 2011). "Awards Season". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  34. Sharkey, Betsy (22 April 2011). "Movie review: 'Incendies'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  35. Blais, Marie-Christine (11 September 2010). "Incendies : se souvenir des cendres". La Presse. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  36. Edelstein, David (22 April 2011). "A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Horror". NPR. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  37. Kotte, pp. 295-296.
  38. "Canada picks Incendies to vie for Oscar". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on October 1, 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  39. Duchesne, André (19 January 2011). "Oscars: Incendies dans les demi-finalistes". (in French). Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  40. "9 Foreign Language Films Continue to Oscar Race". Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  41. "Villeneuve's Incendies wins eight Genies, including best picture". The Globe and Mail. March 10, 2011.
  42. "Incendies". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. n.d. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  43. "Incendies wins 10 Evening News International Award for Best Feature Film". Adelaide Film Festival. 7 March 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  44. "Past Award Winners". Boston Society of Film Critics. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  45. Thomas, Liz (18 January 2012). "Bafta battle: Britain v France (and Maggie takes on Marilyn)". Daily Mail. London.
  46. "Le film Incendies est finaliste pour un César". Le Devoir. 27 January 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  47. Knegt, Peter (19 December 2011). "'The Tree of Life' Leads Chicago Critics Awards". IndieWire. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  48. "Italy's Davide di Donatello Nominations Announced". Yahoo!. 7 April 2011. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  49. "Incendies, Barney's Version dominate Genies". CBC News. 10 March 2011. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  50. "Incendies is Rotterdam 2011 audiences' favourite; 340,000 visits to anniversary edition". 6 February 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  51. "Incendies sweeps Jutra Awards". CBC News. 14 March 2011. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  52. "'The Artist' Named Best Film at France's Lumiere Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  53. Demers, Maxime (5 February 2012). "Incendies récompensé aux Magritte". Le Journal de Montréal. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  54. Corliss, Richard (29 November 2011). "New York Film Critics Can't Wait to Give Their Top Prizes to The Artist". Time. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  55. "Incendies wins the 2010 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award". Toronto Film Critics' Association. 12 January 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  56. Knegt, Peter (11 January 2011). "'Social Network,' 'Incendies' Leads Vancouver Critics' Awards". IndieWire. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  57. "Incendies best Canadian film: Toronto critics". CBC News. 12 January 2011. Retrieved 6 August 2016.

External links

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