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Saturday May 21st, 2011

In Canada a young man and woman anxiously await the reading of their mother's will. The executor places 2 envelopes in front of them: one addressed to their father and the other addressed to their brother, neither of whom they have ever had any contact with. It is their mother's desire that they journey to her ancestral homeland in the Middle East and locate these two people and deliver the letters. The deceased has also added the strange addendum to the will in which she describes her funeral arrangements. She wishes to be buried naked face down in an unmarked grave until the day the letters have been delivered at which time a stone can then be placed at her grave site.

Thus begins Incendies a great 2011 nominee for Best Foreign Language Film from Canada. Adapted from a play by Wajdi Mouawad a Canadian of Lebanese extraction it is a powerful condemnation of the dehumanizing effects of religious intolerance. Mouawad experienced it first hand as a child when his family was part of the exodus that fled Lebanon for France during the horrific civil war which wounded or killed over a million people.

The film directed by Denis Villeneuve with a script by Villeneuve and Valerie Beaugrand-Champagne is a detective story told against such a backdrop of insane religious hatred and civil war. Lubna Azabal is excellent as Nawal Marwan a Christian woman who is ostracized by her family when she falls in forbidden love with a Muslim. Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin is great as her daughter, Jeanne, who's determined to fulfill her mother's dying wishes to the end. Maxim Gaudette is her brother, Simon. Unlike Jeanne, Simon Marwan is a reluctant detective. He is content with his middle class life in Canada and doesn't particularly want to connect with family in the Middle East. As far as he's concerned Nawal is sending him on a fool's errand.

Along with the thematically close Of Gods and Men we are fortunate to now have 2 films dealing with this paramount issue of our times, the hostilities between Christians and Muslims.

The atrocities committed in the name of religion could fill a million movies and untold volumes of books. It's a tragedy that so many people who profess a belief in a benevolent God can harbor so much hatred and malice towards their fellow man.