Skip to main content


Canada, 1974 (MIFF 1975)

Director: Michel Brault

Michel Brault wrote and directed this film, which is concerned with the abuses experienced in Quebec during the terrorist scare of October 1970. Brault is also responsible for much of the camerawork, together with Francois Protat.

Following the kidnapping of the British commercial attache in Montreal, James Cross, and the Quebec Minister of Labor, Pierre Laporte, the government in Ottawa declared the War Measures Act.

Citizens could be arrested and detained without warrant or explanation for up to sixty days.

Les Ordres is a fictional reconstruction of this period, and centres on the situation of five citizens who are arrested and jailed without ever knowing why. They are Clermont Boudreau, factory worker, occasional taxi driver, union representative; Marie Boudreau, his wife, housewife, mother of three children; Richard Lavoie, thirty-year oid unemployed man who takes care of the two children while his wife works as a waitress; Jean-Marie Beauchemin, physician in charge of a a poor neighbourhood; and Claudette Dusseault, social worker.

In 1970, Brault interviewed fifty of the 450 people arrested in Quebec and he has used their experiences in a composite way as the basis for his investigation. He has chosen to deal with people who had no connection with terrorism, and his film concentrates on the humiliations and mental torture they endure in prison. In particular, he explores the relationship between detainee and jailer. They come from the same social class and neither group understands the orders the jailers are expected to follow.

Unlike some other film-makers concerned with terrorism and police violence, Brault has created an intimate drama without sensationalism. He achieves this effect partly by shooting his exterior scenes in black and white, and the interior prison scenes in colour.

See also...

Wilderness Nomads

The Wilderness Nomads is a group of boys and girls (ages 14 to 17) who set out with their leader, Mr Frenetee, on a 400-mile, month-long wilderness canoe trip, through a Northern Canadian Wilderness ... More »

The Owl Who Married the Goose

This animated film illustrates the Eskimo fable about the tragicomical love story of an owl and a goose. ... More »


Canada's huge James Bay power project creates a conflict between the hunting culture in the area, and the white technical culture which would become dominant there. The film shows the Cree hunters' ... More »

The Perlmutar Story

A warm portrait of a family bakery, which has been run for 65 years out of the same tiny shop in the middle of an old-fashioned looking street market which still exists in Toronto, Canada. The ... More »


A story about a caretaker in an unusual boardinghouse. ... More »


This film documents the history of the Canadian cinema from its earliest days to 1939. It contains generous excerpts from films produced during the period, and offers vigorous criticism of the ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director