(The Promised Land)
Format: 16mm Black & White
Runtime: 1959 min
National Film Board of Canada
A dramatized recreation of the settlement of Quebec’s Abitibi region during the Depression, Les Brûlés was the first series of dramas produced for the important “Panoramique” series. It reached a wide and appreciative audience on Radio-Canada and was later re-edited and distributed as a standard feature.
As men arrive by train and makeshift paddleboat, their exhausting attempts to establish farms in the region are assisted by a curé who travelled with the colonizers. After an agronomist is sent out to help, homesteads gradually begin to take shape, a cooperative is established, and wives and families arrive. The new colony faces problems with a forest fire, a storm and social difficulties that claim the lives of several settlers, but teachers for a school arrive, a church is built and a new community is finally created.
Similar in theme to Devlin’s earlier L’Abitis (1953) but produced on a larger budget ($144,000), Les Brûlés featured many familiar actors and actresses from Quebec theatre and television, including folk singer Félix Leclerc. Though the opening sequences are visually striking and poetic in tone, the rest of the film tends to be ponderous and has been justly compared to the Soviet socialist realism films. The emphasis throughout is on the strength of the community, with the curé as the unifying force and folk-figure.