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Director: Jean-Claude Lord
Screenplay: Jean-Claude Lord, Jean Salvy
Cast: Paule Baillargeon, Jean Coutu, Lise Thouin, Pierre Thériault, Jacques Thisdale
Producers: Pierre David, René Malo
Print Source: Cinémathèque québécoise



PANIQUE presents a potential ecological catastrophe resulting from industrial pollution. This thriller was inspired by events that occurred in Seveso, Italy and Minamata, Japan during the 1970s. PANIQUE was intended to make the public aware that such catastrophes could happen here at home too. It also aimed to explore the possible collusion between business and government, who would initiate a cover-up to evade their responsibilities under such circumstances. Should PANIQUE have been made 25 years later for maximum impact?” — Jean-Claude Lord, April 2011

The pulp-and-paper multinational JIT decides to invest in a refinery not far from Montreal. The project benefits the politicians and creates jobs but carries serious environmental risks. Contaminated by the highly toxic wastes generated by JIT, the waters of the Saint Lawrence River become the vector of a lethal epidemic. Numerous cases of poisoning suddenly occur. A child dies. A link is established between this wave of sickness and running water. Panic grips Montreal. Politicians and businessmen are quick to exculpate themselves by falsifying water samples for the investigation. The public-relations coordinator at JIT discovers the whole truth and decides to blow the lid off the treacherous collusion. With a gang of citizens and union workers, she invades the set of a national TV interview with the province’s Minister. Armed and organized, the terrorists intend to force him to reveal the truth.

Rarely is a film from the 1970s so pertinent today. Corruption is still ubiquitous, the connivance between big corporations and the political world more frequent than ever, the poisoning of our environment omnipresent in the media. Replace industrial waste with shale gas and this forceful film, which hasn’t lost a fraction of its potency, connects perfectly with the current concerns of Quebec’s citizens. The final 20 minutes are truly one for the history books. The closing soliloquies by Jacques Thisdale and Paule Baillargeon resonate even more today with alarming accuracy. A terrifying speculative work presented as a political thriller with the look and feel of its era, PANIQUE boasts a rough and realistic style, fast, tense editing and a group of actors who handle their roles with obvious confidence in the filmmaker’s strong vision.

—Marc Lamothe (translated by Rupert Bottenberg)

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