‘Incendies’ a war film all will connect to: Canadian director (Interview)

By Arpana, IANS
Sunday, October 17, 2010

ABU DHABI - His French war drama “Incendies” is set in a fictional land but Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve says that with a universal concept and a star cast hailing from different parts of the world, the movie is bound to find a connect with all, including people in India.

“My film is about being open to others. It’s a victims point of view of a war. The idea is universal, Villeneuve told IANS at the ongoing Abu Dhabi Film Festival where his film was screened and applauded.

A big screen adaptation of Lebanese-Canadian playwright Wajdi Mouawad’s play of the same name, “Incendies” is representing Canada at the Oscars in the foreign film category.

The playwrights idea can travel and touch everyone in the world and thats why I decided to make a film on it, said Villeneuve, who visited India in the 1990s and travelled to New Delhi, Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram, as also to Rajasthan.

Many countries have bought my film and it has also been bought by an Indian distributor and it will be screened there, he said.

Based in a fictional land, the film revolves around a war victim, Nawal, who loses her love and her child due to the unrest in the region. The atrocities of war leave a scar on her life and she sets out to take revenge that changes her life forever.

The film shows traces of the Lebanon crisis, but the director says he set the film in a fictional land because I am a Canadian and I cannot show conflict of Lebanon war - it is too complicated and it would be a mistake to attempt that. Also Mouawad’s never mentioned any particular region”.

Known for her role in the 2005 Golden Globe-winning Palestinian political thriller Paradise Now, Lubna Azabal plays Nawal in the movie and the director says the actress has similar strengths that the character shows in his film.

For the main lead, we looked for actors everywhere - from Middle East to Europe. When I met Lubna in Paris, I knew she was right for the character. I was looking for particular characteristics in the actor to play the main lead - someone who reflects the same strength and resilience as Nawal. Lubna, in many ways, has lot of similarity with the character in the film.

I must say that the lead character in the play and the lead character in my film are equally good - they are at par. Lubna is the strong part of the film, said Villeneuve.

The 43-year-old, who won the Genie Award for Best Director twice for Maelstrm and Polytechnique”, takes criticism in his stride, especially when it comes to the accent used by the actors in Incendies.

I have no problems with critics. Two people out of 400 objected to the accent. The film is in a fictional land and I used different accents. For my film, I worked with actors from Canada, France, Belgium, Morocco, Algeria, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. So I worked with actors from several places and it was a challenge to have the same accent from everyone. It was certainly a concern on the sets of the movie. My lead actress is from Morocco and she did her best, he explained.

The director feels it was a miracle to make the film in 6.5 million Canadian dollars.

We spent 6.5 million Canadian dollars on the film - it was a miracle for my producer to make the film in that budget in two countries, several locations and time zones. I must say the movie was made possible because of my crew, producer and Jordan. Thank you Jordan for your support.

When told that many think his film is a strong contender for the Oscar this year, Villeneuve said: It is a beautiful compliment that people think my film is worth an Oscar. Its a long road ahead. Several countries are vying to be in the top five slot.

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