Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 97 min
National Film Board of Canada,
Octobre presents an account of the October crisis of 1970 from the point of view of the terrorists. When four felquistes (Hugo Dubé, Luc Picard, Pierre Rivard and Denis Trudel) hear on the radio that the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) kidnappers of British diplomat James Cross are capitulating to police demands, they decide a more forceful action is necessary. They target the provincial labour minister, Pierre Laporte (Serge Houde), look his number up in the phone book, arrange a phony meeting and kidnap him at gunpoint from the lawn of his Westmount home. The narrative unfolds inside the kidnappers’ Armstrong Street house as they deal with the pressures and conflicts of the situation; the drama hinges on each man’s moral dilemma over whether or not to kill Laporte after the authorities have called their bluff.
Pierre Falardeau, one of the most political of Québécois directors and a committed separatist, attempts to humanize the FLQ kidnappers in a stark, documentary-style film that maintains a taut, tense pace. Respecting the FLQ’s code of anonymity, Falardeau does not name the four felquistes, although those familiar with the incident can likely determine their identities. In a move that generated much controversy, Falardeau (who reportedly conducted diligent research on all sides of the story) drew extensively from a book written by Francis Simard, who was convicted of being one of the felquistes responsible for Laporte’s death and served eleven years of a life sentence in prison.
Simard’s role in the production particularly outraged Liberal Senator Philippe Gigantes, who vociferously objected both to Telefilm Canada’s $1 million contribution to the film’s $2.2 million budget and the $400,000 provided by the National Film Board, which first optioned Simard’s book in 1984. Gigantes, who read a draft of the script that Falardeau later claimed had been stolen, said the film deserved no public funding, arguing that it tried to justify the murder of Laporte and "canonizes" his killers.
The filmmakers do not avoid the thornier questions and issues related to the incident; they even released the film on the twenty-fourth anniversary of the kidnapping. Though it garnered much media attention in English Canada (Brian D. Johnson, in Maclean’s magazine, called it "a compelling, well-acted and sometimes harrowing psychological drama"), it was ignored at the box office. The film found a large audience in Quebec, where it was heralded as a bold attempt to come to terms with one of the most volatile moments in recent Canadian history.