Based upon a suggestion from a fellow blogger, I recently watched the Canadian film Incendies, directed by Denis Villeneuve. The feature follows a pair of fictional twins, Jeanne and Simon, on their journey to discovering their deceased mothers mysterious past. Throughout the film are flashbacks of the mother life as an Arab Christian in the Middle East during the Lebanese Civil War, which began in the mid 70s. Although the ending is quite…unexpected….the story was brilliantly told and the acting was incredible.
The movie displayed some very intense scenes of violence in the Middle East that really tugged on my emotions, particularly one scene where Nawal, the twins’ mother, was on a Muslim bus that was attacked by Christian militants. The bus driver was shot, and immediately following his death, were gunshots into the bus that killed the majority of the civilians on board. Nawal and a mother with a young daughter had survived the initial attack. The men then covered the bus in gasoline, but before they lit the vehicle on fire, Nawal showed her cross necklace proving that she was a Christian and saving her life. Although the mother could not be saved, Nawal pretended the woman’s daughter was hers in efforts to save her life. As the bus shot up in flames, the young girl ran toward it and was shot in front of Nawal without any mercy.
A clip of the bus scene can be viewed here:
This scene and others like it put the violence that occurs in the Middle East in a different perspective for me then the knowledge about the foreign land that I have learned through articles and classroom discussions. I felt connected to Nawal, like I was there with her, and when she experienced these traumas, I could sense the fear she faced in her everyday life, never knowing if she would still be alive tomorrow. The film also made me realize the difference in the mentality of civilians and militants. After the bus attack, Nawal’s soul blackened, and she felt extreme hatred toward her own religious sect for the heartless brutality she had witnessed.
Although the story is fiction, the cruelty and violence shown is a reoccurring reality in the Middle East, and the civilians are living with the same daily fears expressed through the characters in the film. I can’t imagine living in terror every day, and the heartbreaking story of the characters in Incendies represents a lifestyle I will never know.
I suggest that everybody watch the film Incendies, even if you aren’t interested in Middle Eastern life, the storyline will keep you on edge throughout the entirety of the film. If you have seen the movie, share your thoughts with comments below!
The full movie is available on YouTube: