Incendies – Outline
In a rebels’ base, in an unspecified country of the Middle East, the rebels trim the hair of little boys, recruiting them. One of the boys has a tattoo of three points on his right heel.
Title Card: The Twins
Canada, today. Two twins in their twenties, JEANNE MARWAN and SIMON MARWAN, witness the opening of their mother’s will, by notary JEAN LEBEL. In her will, Nawal Marwan, the twins’ mother and an immigrant from an unnamed Middle Eastern country, requests to be buried without a proper funeral, unless Jeanne and Simon find their brother and their father and give them an envelope each. The two children are shocked to learn that they have a brother, as well as an alive father. Simon says that he will give his mother a proper burial, no matter what.
Questions raised: How come they don’t know their family history? What is in the envelopes?
Outside, Jeanne is angry with Simon, who attempts to brush over the revelations and continue his life. Simon hits her where it hurts: her guilt for being with her when her “accident” happened, but away when she actually died in the hospital.
Jeanne Marwan works in a faculty as a professor’s assistant, teaching mathematics. Her professor encourages to pursue her research for her father. He says that a friend of his, Said, can help her, once she reaches the city of Daresh.
Jeanne searches her stuff and finds an old photo of her mother NAWAL MARWAN. Returning home, Simon finds the same photo on his kitchen table.
Flashback: Jeanne finds her mother by the swimming pool, staring at nowhere, and takes her to the hospital. Simon arrives too. He seems to be sour with his mother. “She is always absent,” he replies when the doctor asks them if she is ever absent-minded.
Questions: What happened by the pool that triggered her condition?
Title Card: Nawal
A young Nawal, in the village, gets ready to flee with her lover, refugee WAHAB. Her brother and her husband (?) find them and shoot Wahab dead. As her husband is about to shoot her too, her GRANDMOTHER intervenes. Nawal tells Grandma that she is pregnant.
Nawal refuses to eat and stays in her room, crying. Her grandmother encourages her to get strength for her child and asks for her word that, after the birth, she will leave for the city of Daresh, where she will stay with an uncle and attend school, to escape the misery of the village.
When the baby is born, Grandma makes a TATTOO OF THREE POINTS on his right heel. Then, they give the baby away, to be raised by another woman.
After her strengh has returned, Nawal leaves the village promising that she will find her son again, some day.
Title Card: Daresh
Jeanne reaches Daresh and visits the School of Foreign Languages, where her mother used to study. She meets Said, but he says that he cannot help her, since he was in Paris, at the time.
Asking around the school, a teacher tells Jeanne that her mother reminds him of some girl that worked in the school newspaper. Also, the writings on the photograph show that it must have been taken in KFAR RYAT, a prison at the south of the country.
During the years that young Nawal works in the university newspaper, there is a civil war, as extremist Christian militias (supported by the Nationalist Party) threaten Muslim refugees of the area. The refugees are now armed and supported by the Muslim part of the population. Despite being a Christian, Nawal declares that she supports the refugees, because she supports peace.
The Nationalist Party closes the university. Nawal’s uncle says that the situation will explode and they must leave and hide for a while.
In the middle of the night, Nawal gets ready to leave the house. When her cousin tries to change her mind, Nawal tells her that she will look for her son in the two orphanages of the area; she has to find him alive. Giving her uncle an excuse, she leaves the house.
Nawal takes the bus, which leaves her at a checkpoint on a bridge. She tells the guards that she is going South to meet with her husband. They check her passport and let her go.
Walking and hitch hiking, she reaches her village again. She takes a moment at the spot where her lover was killed.
She visits the first orphanage, which only has girls. A woman sends her to Kfar Kout, the other orphanage, where the boys are. But she warns her that the place has been attacked.
Nawal reaches the other orphanage, which has been destroyed by the attack of the Muslim forces of Chamseddine. A villager tells her that the children must be with the fleeing Muslim villagers. Chamseddine killed all the Christians to avenge the refugees. Nawal is devastated.
Walking, she sees a small bus approaching. She takes off her crucifix and wears her scarf like a Muslim woman. She stops the bus and goes on board. The bus is then stopped by Christian extremists and they open fire. Everybody gets killed, except Nawal and another Muslim woman with her daughter. As the men pour gasoline on the bus, she cries out that she is a Christian. The men take her. She then tries to save the girl, pretending to be her mother, but the trick doesn’t work, as the girl runs towards her real mother; they are both shot dead. Nawal is left crying by the burning bus.
Title Card: The South
35 years later, Jeanne takes the bus following the same route and reaches Nawal’s village. She shows the photograph around and manages to find a family with a girl that speaks French. When she shows Nawal’s picture to the elderly women, they start quarrelling in Arabic. The girl tells her about Nawal’s shame. When she tells the name of her father, “Wahab,” they reply that they do not know him. Then, the elders refuse to continue the conversation, telling her that she is not welcome there.
Title Card: Deressa
Young Nawal continues walking, after the bus incident. She reaches Deressa, which is burning. She sleeps in an abandoned house.
The next morning, she offers herself to be recruited by the Muslim rebels. To gain their trust, she discloses that Wahab, her lover, was a refugee from Deressa and that she has seen the cruelties of the Christian extremists and the Nationalist Party.
Nawal now works as a private teacher, in the house of the Nationalist Party’s leader, teaching his son French. She is close enough to eat at the same table with him. One night, she receives the order: “10 o’clock.”
The next morning, during her lesson, she steps outside and shoots the leader dead. She is put in prison.
Jeanne drives to the prison of Kfar Ryat, now closed after the intervention of Amnesty International. Some guy gives her the tour, but he does not recognise Nawal from the photo. Jeanne asks for other people who may know.
She finds a janitor from the nearby school, who used to be a watchman in the prison. He instantly recognises Nawal’s photo as “the woman who sang.” He tells Jeanne that her mother murdered the NP leader. They did everything to break her, but they couldn’t. Then, they sent Abu Tarek, who raped her repeatedly, until she became pregnant. The janitor does not know about the child, but gives her the details of the nurse who took care of her. She lives in Daresh.
Jeanne calls Simon in a state of shock, telling him that their mother was raped and had their brother in prison.
Title Card: The woman who sings
Nawal in prison. She sings to keep her mind off the screaming of the women from the nearby cells.
Jean, the notary, tells Simon that “death is never the end of the story; there are always traces,” and offers to help him find his brother.
Jean hears Nawal’s will and writes the two letters to be given to the twins.
Title Card: Sarwan Janaan
Nawal is taken to Abu Tarek. He rapes her.
As her belly grows, Nawal beats it up, trying to kill the baby.
Months later, the nurse helps Nawal give birth to the twins.
The nurse stops the man who usually dumps the babies in the river and takes the babies from him.
Simon and Jean get a ride by a friend of Jean’s, in Daresh. Jean has asked for help, to find the father and the brother, but Simon insists they are there only to get his sister back.
The twins reunite. Jeanne demands that they go and find the nurse.
They find the nurse in a hospital bed. She is overjoyed to see them. She tells them (what we already know) that Nawal gave birth to twins, in prison. The twins are stunned.
The twins are digesting the information, in the hotel swimming pool.
Title Card: Nihad
A small team of boys carrying plastic bags run and take cover among debris. A young man shoots two of them dead, from up a building. He has three points tattooed on his heel.
Jean and his friend meet with the twins. The friend has done research and has found that a boy with the name Nihad was given for adoption from Nawal’s village; and the dates match. Simon proposes that they just open the envelopes, since both their father and Nihad are dead, but Jean objects to that. The friend proposes that they meet with Wallat Chamseddine, the warlord of the time, who will definitely remember what has happened to the children of the orphanage. To find him, Simon has to go to any house that invites him for tea and tell that he is the son of the woman that sings.
Simon and Jean reach Deressa. A man recognises their driver and invites them for tea. Simon tells him that his mother is the woman who sings. No response. Jean’s friend, on the phone, tells him to wait.
Later that day, two men pick Simon up from his hotel room, promising to have him back in an hour.
Nawal, after her release, meets with Chamseddine, who asks her to leave the country with her children. His contacts in America will help.
Title Card: Chamseddine
Simon meets Chamseddine, who tells him the story of Nihad. After being saved from the attacked orphanage, Nihad joined Chamseddine’s forces. Then, he wanted to find his mother. He thought that if he were a martyr, his mother would see his picture everywhere. Finally, he became a shooter. But he was caught by the enemy and sent to the Kfar Ryat prison. He later became an executioner there…
Back in the hotel room, Simon lets Jean know what he has found out.
Flashback, Canada, by the pool: Nawal sees the tattooed heel of a man. She exits the water to see his face, only to come face to face with her rapist, Abu Tareq. Realising that Abu Tareq was her first born son, she sits down in silence, as Jeanne later will find her.
Nihad / Abu Tareq lives in Canada under a new identity: Nihad Harmanni. The twins find him and deliver him both envelopes; the one for the father and the one for the brother. Nihad opens the father one first, in which Narwan tells him that they had children together and “they know who you are.” Then, he opens the brother one, where he reads that he is her son.
Since they completed the mission, Jean hands the third letter to the twins, in which Nawal expresses her love towards them.
Final image: Nihad standing over Narwal’s grave.