Montreal director Denis Villeneuve says the Oscar nomination he received Tuesday for "Incendies" is like a "kid's dream."

"When I think about the Academy Awards, I'm six years old," Villeneuve told The Canadian Press from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

"It's a huge, huge gift ... I'm totally astonished. It's such a huge surprise this morning."

The movie -- which follows twins as they travel from Montreal to the Middle East to uncover their mother's war-ravaged past -- will compete for best foreign-language film against Greece's "Dogtooth," Denmark's "In a Better World," Algeria's "Outside the Law," and Mexico's "Biutiful."

Villeneuve says the Academy Award nomination is going to make a "huge, huge difference" for the film's U.S. release.

"I never said that before, but I did have a lot of pressure from distributors around the world who kept saying to me, 'We bought your film because we know it's going to go to the Academy Awards' and I was always saying ... 'Hey, guys, hold on a minute, it's a long step to go there,"' Villeneuve said.

"There's relief in a way, because I don't look like a fool this morning."

Villeneuve adapted "Incendies" from Wajdi Mouawad's play, which he fell in love with after seeing it performed in Montreal in 2004.

During interviews for "Incendies," he has repeatedly thanked Mouawad for giving him full artistic licence with the difficult material. He reiterated that sentiment Tuesday.

"This movie was full of risk. I just knew I was working on a masterpiece. I'm talking about the play, of course," he said.

"With that strong material, I hoped I would be able to make something good."

"Incendies" is told through parallel stories.

It begins in present-day Montreal, as twins Simon (Maxim Gaudette) and Jeanne (Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin) visit with a notary after the death of their mother. In her will, she asks them to deliver two letters -- one to their father and one to a brother they didn't know they had.

The film also traces the long-ago journey of their mother Nawal (Lubna Azabal).

"Incendies" is at times tough to watch, with scenes of torture, rape and intense violence. Shooting in Jordan and Montreal, with a large cast of extras, Villeneuve has acknowledged that "Incendies" was a difficult project.

He has called the film his own "Apocalypse Now."

Incredibly, he made the film while simultaneously working on "Polytechnique," his acclaimed 2009 cinematic rendering of the Montreal massacre.

Telefilm Canada helped finance "Incendies" through its Canada Feature Film Fund.

"We are thrilled to see 'Incendies' achieve such a high, and well-deserved, honour," Telefilm's Carolle Brabant said in a statement Tuesday.

"We are proud to have supported Denis Villeneuve, who has helped elevate Canada's reputation as world-class filmmakers with great artistic vision. The film's message is universal, reaching beyond language or borders."

Tuesday's Academy Award nomination is the latest in a string of accolades for Villeneuve's film.

"Incendies" was named best Canadian film by Toronto and Vancouver film critics and has collected several awards on the festival circuit.

In addition to "Polytechnique," Villeneuve's previous films include 2000's whimsical "Maelstrom" and his 1998 feature-length debut "Un 32 aout sur terre" ("32nd Day of August on Earth").

Canada was last nominated for a foreign-language film Oscar in 2007 for Deepa Mehta's "Water."

The last time a Canuck film won the category was in 2004 for Denys Arcand's "The Barbarian Invasions."

Many have called Villeneuve the heir apparent to Arcand.

On Tuesday, he was simply pleased that "Incendies" had been recognized.

"This morning, I'm just happy the Academy Award members appreciated the film," he said.

The Oscars will be handed out Feb. 27 on CTV.