Accepting his second straight citation from the Toronto Film Critics Association for Best Canadian Feature, Denis Villeneuve made reference to the previous year’s acceptance speech.
In 2010, he was tapped for his controversial drama Polytechnique and joked that the cash prize — sponsored by Rogers — would allow him to pay his phone bill. This year, he pointed out that shooting a film in a foreign country meant that he’d run up a substantial bill on his cellphone. That film was Incendies, adapted from a play by Montreal’s Wajdi Mouaward.
The story involves a pair of Canadian twins who journey back to their mother’s home in an unnamed Middle Eastern country to unravel a dark family mystery.
Villeneuve says that his goal in bringing Mouawad’s thematically complex play to the screen was to “go from ideas to images. He gave me total freedom to adapt the work; freedom to make mistakes.”
He says that he presented Mouawad early in the process with a number of scenes — including a tense, frightening sequence of orphaned Arab boys having their heads shaved. That scene opens the film, scored to the song You and Whose Army by Radiohead.
“I needed a song that had an operatic quality, something melancholic and hypnotic,” Villeneuve explains.