Cotton Mill, Treadmill

Cotton Mill, Treadmill (French: On est au coton) is a documentary film directed by Denys Arcand in 1970, about the conditions of workers in the textile industry in Quebec.


The release of the film was blocked for several years by its producer, the National Film Board of Canada, due to its politically sensitive nature.[1] On est au coton was completed at the height of the October Crisis, and the NFB was alarmed by the appearance of two members of the FLQ, who issued a call for armed revolution in the film. Then NFB chairman Sydney Newman also sided with textile industry executives, who pointed out what they believed to be inaccuracies and unfair portrayals in the film.[2]

Newman was quoted as stating that “there are many factual errors either through bad research or overzealous attempts to show the evils of capitalism. The general tone is a slashing attack on the English-controlled textile industry. I tell people, ‘if you want to make a smear film, make sure you present invincible arguments.’ This one didn’t.”[3]


Bootleg copies spread among separatist student groups for several years until an edited version of the film was released in 1976 by Newman's successor, André Lamy. Lamy had served as Newman's assistant commissioner and had played a key role in informing his superior about potentially problematic films like On est au coton, however with the passage of time and the subsidence of political violence after the October Crisis, Lamy felt that the film no longer needed to be withheld from distribution. Moreover, the ban on distribution of On est au coton and other films was contrary to the NFB’s reputation for freedom and creativity. When Lamy learned that the Conseil québécois pour la diffusion du cinéma had decided to distribute an unlicensed copy of the film, he chose not to take legal measures, and released an edited version of the film.[4] The film was not released in its original, uncensored form until 2004.


  1. Spaas, Lieve (2000). "II - North America and the Caribbean". The Francophone Film: A Struggle for Identity. Manchester University Press. p. 92. ISBN 0-7190-5861-9.
  2. Evans, Gary (1991). "'On a Chariot of Fire': Sydney Newman's Tenure". In the National Interest: A Chronicle of the National Film Board of Canada from 1949 to 1989. University of Toronto Press. pp. 177–187.
  3. Bradburn, Jamie (July 11, 2009). "Historicist: The Adventures of Sydney Newman". Torontoist. Gothamist LLC. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  4. "1976". National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved January 28, 2010.

External links

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