War On Screen - Festival International des cinémas de guerre

Québec: The October Crisis of 1970



Alongside the major conflicts punctuating world history in the 20th century, many have been overlooked. Among these, the October Crisis of 1970 in Quebec is particularly noteworthy as it involved what is a unique scenario in the Western world, and as such has provided both a rich and stimulating source of inspiration for filmmakers.

In October 1970, following attacks that had been taking place for a number of years on various symbols of English-speaking domination in Quebec, the Front de Libération du Québec engaged in two simultaneous acts of hostage-taking, kidnapping the British trade commissioner and a minister from the province of Quebec. The Federal Government then invoked so-called “Wartime Measures”, deploying the army into Montreal and making several hundred arrests within the space of a few hours. The British diplomat would be freed after two months, in exchange for the kidnappers being granted safe passage to Cuba, while Minister Pierre Laporte would be found dead, killed in unclear circumstances. To this day, this has been the only act of international and political hostage-taking to have taken place on North American soil. The events, while little known around the world, are nonetheless a fundamental part of Canada’s history.

Artistically, The October Crisis was a huge awareness-raiser and spurred a number of leading artists to become involved. Félix Leclerc composed l’Alouette en colère, marking a turning point in his career which has been devoted to expressions of rebellion ever since. But cinema was without a doubt the art form that would be most directly inspired. Out of the variety of films in question, we have chosen four that bear witness to the ability of a small, ill-prepared group to destabilise an entire State, to the fragility of respect for basic civil liberties within an otherwise democratic State, and to the fraught nature of the boundary between civil peace and civil war. From Orders, a magnificent portrayal of Quebec society that earned Michel Brault the Director’s Award at Cannes in 1975, to Maison du Pêcheur, which director Alain Chartrand (Brault’s assistant on Orders) will present at this European preview—a magnificent portrait of a group of young idealists lapsing into terrorism—the event will also offer a more general overview of film output from Quebec.


LA MAISON DU PECHEUR - Alain Chartrand (2013) - Canada

THE OCTOBRE CRISIS OF 1970 - Robin Spry (1974) - Canada

THE HOSTAGE - Carl Leblanc (2004) - Canada

OCTOBRE - Pierre Falardeau (1994) - Canada

ORDERS - Michel Brault (1974) - Canada



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