Land of a Thousand Sorrows (2021) 

In this documentary, the voyage and lives of men who were arrested in Canada and sent to Australia as punishment is explored along with what led to this and what happened afterwards. 

Based on the book of the same title as well as another, this documentary written and directed by Deke Richards covers a subject not many are familiar with, one that a bit like the forced displacements of the Acadiens towards New Orleans has left a mark on both countries now connected through these events. Canadian history books may sometimes mention this, but it is not something many learn in school, much less outside of Canada. There are a few books out there, but a quick internet search proves fairly futile in terms of finding movies about the same subject. While the drama 15 Fevrier 1839 covers some of it, this subject had not seen a deep dive like it deserves. Enter Deke Richards, a filmmaker with a passion for this story based in his origins and in some serious research he did on this over the years. All that research becomes this documentary, one that was finished during the pandemic, thus limiting some of the filming and some of its reach.  

The film here takes a not-so-well-known part of Canadian history, or specifically Quebec history and digs in every corner of the world it can to find all the information possible. This is a documentary with a ton of information and it does feel like there may be too much in there. This just means that it may require a few viewings to fully grasp all of it. The documentary is one with a ton of information yes, but that information is presented in a dynamic manner without over embellishing its contents. This is raw information, straight from the sources through books and through filmmaker Richards. As the film is stuffed with information, it may come off a bit heavy at times and may give the viewer the feeling of watching a history class or one of those Minutes du Patrimoine that Quebec television used to air often. This is more than that and it’s also filled with passion for the subject. 

In terms of how things are presented, the film is done in a manner that is very straightforward and direct with the facts. There is no guessing at what people may have been feeling or conjectures to fill in voids where information may have been missing. The film is direct and it gains a lot from this. It also gains from being narrated in both French and English with actor Luc Picard (pictured, also the star of 15 Fevrier 1839) on the French side and director Richards on the English side. This adds a connection to the lands affected by this part of history. 

Land of a Thousand Sorrows will not be for everyone, but for those fascinated by history and how entire regions were affected by decisions by the ruling power of England of the time affected and still affect to this day the population of Quebec and Australia. This is a deep dive type of documentary that anyone interested in seeing how justice was put through and how punishment could be served when the fear of an insurrection led the charge leading to some injustices that changed an entire population, this is the kind of documentary to look for. This is clearly a passion project and it shows in how meticulous the research done was and how the story is brought to the screen.