The war drama Incendies, from Canadian writer/director Denis Villeneuve, is one of the five films nominated for this year’s British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards.
Shot in French and Arabic, Incendies will compete for the Best Film Not in the English Language award. Incendies tells the story of a woman who decides to go to the Middle East to learn more about her mother who has just died.
Lead actress Lubna Azabal plays the mother, Nawal Marwan, who had asked in her will that her twin children go to the Middle East to find out who their real father is and who their unknown brother is.
Azabal said the film can appeal to all.
“It’s a story about women, about transmission, family, secret, what is left unsaid, how to stop the anger that is being transmitted from one generation to the next, and this we still see today, even more so in the Arab world. It’s a film that could take place in any other country in the world. It’s about war, it’s about rape as a war weapon, it’s about… there is a lot of things which strike a chord in the people who went to see the movie, whatever their own stories and experiences may be,” Azabal said.
An adaptation of Wajdi Mouawad’s play Incendies, the film is set during the Lebanon war although it is never named.
Azabal said war is omnipresent in the modern world. But there is more than war in the movie, she said.
“Even if you don’t experience the war firsthand, it still there, through media, social networks, we are overflowed by wars. A war is also a racist crime happening on your doorstep. This is a kind of a war too. You are not like me so I kill you and it takes place on your doorstep. It’s war but it’s also family secrets, where you come from, who are our parents, who is my mother, who is my father, there are so many things we don’t know about them. And the film allows this questioning,” Azabal said.
The film was shot in Canada and Jordan. For Azabal, getting into the music of another language is a must.
“It’s an encounter with another culture. When you get into that music (of a foreign language), you understand foreign culture better. I feel… You can only learn to love the other through his or her own language. I don’t know how to explain this. You can’t be racist if you speak several languages, it’s impossible. Because you have to follow the steps of the other person, in his or her way of thinking, because you think in another language, it’s a whole process and I just love it,” Azabal said.
The film won awards in Canada, throughout the United States and in Europe. Azabal said everyone involved in Incendies has been pleasantly surprised by the film’s success.
“The story is so tough, so… We talk about things that maybe people didn’t want to hear that, they didn’t want to listen to that. It’s a Canadian movie with Arabic language, and both of that, nobody will want to see that kind of movie… It’s too heavy. Well, at the end, it’s great !,” Azabal said.
The film competes with Wim Wenders’s Pina, French comedy Potiche, Pedro Elmodovar’s The Skin I Live In and the Oscar favourite, Iranian movie A Separation from Asghar Farhadi. Incendies was also nominated for a foreign-language Oscar in 2011.