TORONTO - After earning back-to-back Academy Award nominations for "Incendies" and "Monsieur Lazhar," Quebec movie producers Luc Dery and Kim McCraw gained a reputation for having a magic touch.
Actress Evelyne Brochu, who stars in their latest film "Inch'Allah," calls the pair "remarkable" but says they are modest about their accomplishments.
"They're so humble, they're like: 'Oh no, we work with friends,'" she said during an interview at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.
"And I'm like, 'No, I don't think that's only it. That's very humble.' I think (their films) come from a place of love, of passion, of dedication. And I think those things show."
In "Inch'Allah" (Arabic for "God willing") Brochu plays Chloe, a Canadian obstetrician who lives in an apartment on the Israeli side of the West Bank. She must cross a checkpoint each day to get to her job at a Palestinian clinic.
Facing enormous stress and constantly surrounded by the threat of violence, she makes friends on both sides of the barrier, including her border guard neighbour Ava (Sivan Levy) and Rand (Sabrina Ouazani), a pregnant patient whose brother Faysal (Yousef Sweid) is devoted to the cause of Palestinian liberation.
McCraw and Dery have shepherded a range of films, from the war-torn "Incendies" (which lost its Oscar bid to Denmark's "In A Better World") to the tender "Monsieur Lazhar" (edged out by the Iranian drama "A Separation").
Brochu says it's a testament to the thoroughness of the filmmaking duo that they invited her to come along on an "Inch'Allah" fact-finding mission in June 2011.
"They were doing a trip to the West Bank and Israel with the art director to have a feel of the realities because we were going to shoot most of it in Jordan. And they could have not invited me there — they didn't really need to. But they did, so that I could get a sense of those realities ... have a physical sense of what it is to be there," she said.
"Not many producers would have had that initiative, I think."
Brochu — whose previous screen credits include "Polytechnique" and "Cafe de Flore" — says the trip helped the cast bond before the intense 39-day shoot.
She also has high praise for director Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, known for her documentary work.
"Everything she does has two things that are always present ... she has an eye for truth that is insane and she also has an eye for this underlying poetic meaning that's kind of everywhere," said Brochu.
"So even though you feel like you're watching a documentary because it's so real you also get this veil of underlying poetic beauty."
Brochu — who became immersed in the politics of the region — is reluctant to call the "Inch'Allah" shoot "hard," noting that she is an actress, not a doctor living with daily violence.
"I think it was challenging," she said. "But I kind of chose that because I like to be challenged, because I like to step out of my comfort zone, because I want to know what it's like to see the world through other eyes."
"Inch'Allah" opens Friday in Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.