Incendies follows a brother and sister on a coming-of-age journey, in which they reconstruct a family history full of rage and violence that will scar them forever. Wajdi Mouawad’s play was partly inspired by the civil war that shattered Lebanon in the mid-1970s. Two years after I started work on the script, history repeated itself when Israel and Hezbollah clashed in 2006. Images that had haunted me during my months of research were suddenly on front pages around the world. Then war broke out in Gaza in 2008. And today, the region is under threat once again.
Incendies is a painfully topical and relevant work. With a mixture of sadness and happiness, I’m able to see profound meaning in it that helps me maintain a glimmer of hope. How can we break the cycle of anger that has sparked endless violence? How can we make peace among feuding peoples, inhabitants of a region, or relatives?
Incendies teaches us that third parties are needed if we are to free ourselves of the hatred we inherit from the past, and that the Other is a mirror, a salvation. When Wajdi Mouawad says that nothing is more beautiful than togetherness, he is refusing to blame anyone, and asking us instead to take our share of responsibility. It is my modest hope that my film is a worthy expression of that very idea.
Denis Villeneuve is a two-time Genie Award winner, for Maelstrom (2000) and Polytechnique (2009). His film 32nd of August on Earth (1998) screened at Telluride.