________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 1 . . . . September 4, 2009


The Great Resistance.

Danys Desjardins (Director). Johanne & Yves Bisaillon (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2007.
77 min., DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153E 9908 284.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Frank Loreto.

* /4

During the Depression, the Quebec government and the Church found that they were having great difficulty feeding all the hungry. A plan was devised to open up the Abitibi region of Northern Quebec and encourage settlement of those who were willing to try farming as a way of life. The program was very successful and just about anyone who applied was accepted-even if the person had absolutely no farming or bush experience.

     Life was very hard, but, with great difficulty, the settlers managed to open up the area, carve out farms from the bush and establish communities. Once the trees were removed, the multinational companies came in to get the rich natural resources. In so doing, the difficult farm life in many cases was abandoned for regular paying jobs, and farming was no longer seen as a stimulus for the economy. Many of the large companies have since moved on, thereby leaving the Abitibi region empty with a questionable future.

     The Great Resistance could be subtitled "So what if you have a dream?" The main focus of the film is Hauris Lalancette, his son and his granddaughter. The film begins with documentary shots of a younger Hauris making a political speech. The opening family scene shows Hauris and his son arguing about the state of the area and the world. The granddaughter laughs, as this exchange goes on constantly. Both men have very different views of how things are and how they should be. While the debate is heated, they continue to work alongside each other.

     The Lalancettes work a dairy farm in the Abitibi region. Hauris remembers a better time, and his son admits that things are difficult for farming in the region. Many of the farms established initially are no longer functioning. Over 900 farmers have signed over their land to the government. In fact, government money was provided in the past to replant trees on the former farms. Hauris points out that the years of backbreaking labour turning forest into farmland is undone in one day of planting trees.

     The younger Lalancette takes his daughter on a tour of the town. Their village once was 2000 strong with two schools. However, now all he can do is point out where things used to be: the church, the school, various businesses - all gone now. He stands on the main intersection in the town and states that he has been there for 10 minutes and not one car has gone by. He worries for his daughter's future and with good reason. In her classroom, the children discuss what they want to do when they grow up. Almost all of their plans involve moving away.

     Hauris has always been a voice for the region. In the 1970's, he was the feature of a documentary film in which he is shown running for political office. His speeches, filled with passion, now seem amusing to his granddaughter who says, "He talks too loud." His defeat during the provincial election where he tried to get some regional representation almost destroys him. However, that was long ago. Today, he still has passion, but the writing is clearly on the wall. His son admits that he had the chance to leave the area but decided to come back--acting more on passion than reason. Because farming is not enough to feed the family, he drives a school bus. There is an irony there. With the closing of the local schools, the children must be bussed to a larger area. He admits that the bus driving job is essential. Like himself, his daughter will have to decide at some point in her life if she will leave or stay. Right now she seems keen to stay, but she is still young.

     The Great Resistance is a difficult film to watch as the ending is almost a foregone conclusion. Many communities have dried up due to changing economic times. Hauris is angry that there is no provision in the provincial budget to address the problems in the Abitibi region. Farming is gone, and many of the forest product companies are pulling out as well. The future is bleak indeed, and this film was made before the current plunge in the economy. There does not seem to be much hope.

     As far as classroom applicability goes, The Great Resistance would not have much appeal. Sadly, Northern Quebec does not seem to be on any curricular radar, and, if Hauris is correct, probably not even in Quebec. The film is very long and all in French so students would have to watch subtitles for 77 minutes.

Not recommended.

Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.