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MONTREAL — When documentary filmmakers target the corporate world, the results can be nasty but fleeting.
Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me forced McDonald’s Corp. to respond to the portrayal of its food as a silent killer. But it did little harm to the fast-food giant’s popularity and share price, which has more than tripled since the day the film was released in 2004.
In Roger & Me, Michael Moore decried General Motors Corp.’s closure of several auto plants in his native Flint, Mich. The movie awakened for many Americans the debate over globalization and protecting local employment.
As for the bespectacled Quebec singer and poet Richard Desjardins, he’s become a bit of a folk hero for shaking up corporate Quebec.
His 1999 shock documentary L’Erreur Boréale (English title: Forest Alert) fuelled a public outcry against deforestation. He forced Toronto-based Norbord Industries Inc. to suspend logging in the woodland west of his hometown of Rouyn-Noranda. No matter that his film was widely denounced by the forestry industry as manipulative and inaccurate. L’Actualité magazine named him Man of the Year that year.
Now Mr. Desjardins is back with a new movie called Trou Story (The Hole Story) and a new target: the Canadian mining sector.
Once again, the filmmaker uses sweeping panoramic images to chronicle the effects of industry on nature. Once again, he’s stirring up controversy – this time by denouncing the way mining companies have piled up big profits while showing a disregard for the environment and workers’ health.
The film is long on perceived historical failures and short on current events. The eventual unionization of underground workers after a multi-decade struggle is good. The foreign takeovers of Canadian miners Inco Ltd. and Falconbridge Ltd. is bad.
The film argues that governments, and the Quebec government in particular, have done little to steer a reasonable portion of the wealth created to the public.
The movie ends with the rallying cry: “Il est temps d’être maîtres chez nous” (It’s time to be masters of our own house). The politically loaded phrase was first uttered by former premier Jean Lesage when he called for the nationalization of all privately owned electric power companies in Quebec.
Robert Monderie, who cowrote the documentary with Mr. Desjardins, said Tuesday their hope is that Quebecers are “more critical and demanding” toward the mining sector.
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