A tiny island nation off Canada’s east coast enters the global arena when its natural resources become the focal point for international wheeling, dealing and politicking, in this energetic political satire from Quebec director Chloé Robichaud (Sarah Prefers to Run).
Chloé Robichaud established herself as one of Quebec’s filmmakers to watch with her 2013 feature debut Sarah préfère la course (Sarah Prefers to Run), which won audiences over with its focus on a single determined character. With PAYS, she widens her scope considerably. The film embeds a multi-character study in a decidedly political setting, telling the story of three women navigating careers and personal lives.
The fictional island country of Besco (population 170,000) is a place just off Canada’s east coast that seems to have frozen in time a few decades ago. Now Besco’s natural resources are up for imminent exploitation by a foreign company. Emily Price (Emily VanCamp) is an American mediator of the negotiations between Besco’s president, Danielle Richard (Macha Grenon), and a Canadian government minister, who is aided behind the scenes by his deputy, Félixe (Nathalie Doummar).
The daily negotiations take place at a primary school (the area’s only neutral space large enough). Squished into student desks, the politicians argue fervently, each with their share of one-sided statistics and studies. Input from lobbyists, ministries, unions, and workers only muddies the waters as they try to resolve the question: in whose interest would the mining truly be? Whenever progress is made in one area, new quarrels arise in the next, making an agreement increasingly unlikely.
This is Buñuelian satire injected with an incredible dose of contemporary energy. Pays gives us a profound look at its main characters’ principles and doubts, while it portrays the game they’re playing as equal parts hilarious and damning. If history has taught anyone anything, it’s that nobody seems to agree on its teachings. – Magali Simard