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Movie Review: INCENDIES

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INCENDIES is a riveting drama every bit as intense as Greek tragedy. This Oscar nominated French language film is now playing only in Kahala, and it's the most powerful film I've seen in a long time.

INCENDIES (which literally means "scorched" is about the  horrors of a civil war in which hatred and intolerance of religious differences lead to massacre, assassination, and rape.

But it's also the powerful story of a long suffering woman whose adult children have no idea what her life was like before they were born.

But when they present themselves to her notary for the reading of her will, the surprises come suddenly.

"Jeanne," reads the notary, "this envelope is for your father. Find him and give it to him. Simon, the envelope is for your brother. Find him and give him the envelope." Looking up, the notary says, "You just learned that your father is alive and that you have another brother. You have to know or your mind will never be at peace."

It's stunning news for the two young people who have grown up in Quebec. The instructions in their mother's will send them on a journey to a country very much like Lebanon where she spent most of her life.
      
And as they piece together their mother's history, we see her story in flashbacks.
 
As a young Christian woman she brought disgrace to her family by falling in love with a Muslim. The baby she had with him was placed in an orphanage, and years pass before she is able to go looking for him.

 Lubna Azabal delivers an extraordinary performance as Nawal Marwan, a strong determined woman who does everything she can to find her lost son.
     
As she walks through the smoking ruins of a bombed out building she sees a man in the distance.
Nawal: I'm looking for the orphanage. do you know where it is?
Man: There. (pointing to burned ruins.)
Nawal: The children! Where are the children?

The entire film is just as compelling as Azabal's performance as the story shifts back and forth between the mother's life and the journey of discovery taken by her kids.
      
When her daughter meets a group of women in her mother's village, she gets a rude surprise. "If you are the daughter of Nawal Marwan, you are not welcome here. Go home."

INCENDIES is an absorbing movie that rewards close attention to the screen. Critics are divided about whether its shocking final revelation is believable, but there's no denying the power of this masterful piece of filmmaking.