As I watched the Academy Award-nominated film Incendies (2010) last month, which my friend writer and translator N.
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Incendies' director, Denis Villeneuve, who adapted the screenplay with script consultant Valérie Beaugrand-Champagne from an original play by Wajdi Mouawad, is no Shakespeare—and who is or needs be?
--and he also but he does show considerable adroitness wedding the political and the melodramatic successfully in this film, which unfolds like an informative and disturbing puzzle that you cannot pull yourself away from.
Set in Canada and an unnamed country that bears more than a few resemblances to Lebanon, Incendies tracks the story of fraternal Arab-Canadian twins, sister Jeanne Marwan (Mélissa Desormeaux-Poulin), a promising mathematics graduate student, and brother Simon Marwan (Maxim Gaudette), a surly laborer, who have recently lost their emotionally remote but loving mother, Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal), and whom Jean Lebel (Rémy Girard), a sober white notary for whom Nawal worked for many years, have summoned to his offices for the reading of their mother's will.
Both siblings expect little in the way of an estate from their former parent, the only one they have ever known, particularly because of the catatonia she entered at the end of her life, but Notary Lebel presents each with an envelope that Nawal dictated to him on her deathbed, and has a third that can only be opened once each addresses the requests in their respective envelopes.
For Jeanne, the request is to give the letter to their brother, while for Simon, it is to give the letter to their father, both especially difficult requests because Nawal has never spoken of another child, let alone a son, or given the children any information about their father, at all.