Analysis of the Movie ‘The Hole Story’

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‘The Hole Story’, by Richard Desjardins and Robert Monderie, is a charged and heavily biased point of view documentary about mining practices and communities affected by mining in Northern Ontario and Quebec. The documentary is intrinsically linked to an environmental justice-oriented agenda, and while the topic of the documentary is of importance to Ontarians and Quebecois, the documentary itself is unfortunately unfocused and lacks the critical thinking required to fully do justice to the topic.

About This Movie

‘The Hole Story’ is a heavily biased and emotional against the mining companies. Therefore, this is a point of view style documentary. This is shown by its narrative language choice and negative manipulation towards interview subjects that disagreed with the filmmaker’s arguments.

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First, the language choice is intended to reflect and reinforce the opinions of the filmmakers. The use of adjectives such as ‘spinelessness’ to describe the government’s shortcomings and referring to strike-breaking workers by the derogatory term of ‘scabs’, are indicative of a preconceived and intentional bias.

Second, the belittling of those opposed to the filmmaker’s agenda during interviews shows the bias conveyed by the movie. When interviewing the director of the Department of the Environment for Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, the filmmakers followed the short interview footage with the dismissive narrated comment “her job really consists of handing out licenses to pollute”.

Additionally, the directors, Desjardins and Monderie, have a history of politically charged documentary filmmaking. Thus, the charged nature of this movie is similar in style to their past work.

Key Messages

The documentary has three key messages that relate to their environmental justice agenda. The first message is that mining practices in northern Ontario and Quebec negatively impact the health of nearby communities and the environment. An example of this message is when the movie reveals that a 1960s Sudbury mining workers union movement was fueled by the findings that half of its members, in addition to one third of Sudbury’s population, died younger than the national average due to exposure to harmful materials and chemicals in the mines. The rally is a good example of workers fighting for environmental justice movement’s first principle, as explained by Robert Bullard in ‘Environmental Justice in the 21st Century’, which is that all people have the right to be protected from the harmful effects of environmental degradation.

The second point is that mining corporations in northern Ontario and Quebec are an example of the tragedy of the commons, in that they exploit abundant Canadian resources, to the detriment of Canadian citizens, without adequately investing, or giving back to the communities. An example is the interview with Sudbury’s mayor, in which he describes trying to get funding from the mining companies for necessary infrastructure as a form of ‘begging’. This is a key example of the tragedy of the commons that the mining companies are partaking in. They degrade the land, take the resources and wealth, and negligently put nothing back into the community, to the extent that the mayor of Sudbury must beg for money to fix the problems that the companies created.

Third and finally, is the argument that the government should enforce tighter regulations and taxation on mining operations. An example of this message is shown using an interview with a mining expert at a convention who explains that due to the lax nature of mining regulations and laws, Quebec is a highly profitable area to conduct mining operations. This is a clear indicator that the Canadian government does not put enough resources into the conducting of regulatory science for mining operations, thus making it easier for the corporations to exploit the wealth of the regions.


The movie is very effective at conveying specific messages, but overall lacks the cohesion and focus in which to keep its audience entertained. Individual segments of the movie are very effective at creating empathy for negatively affected community members, while evoking hatred towards the mining companies. Examples of this emotional manipulation include the interview with the upset father holding his child while discussing how bad the living conditions of the town are, and the juxtaposition of an interview with a mining executive framed against an unpleasant looking tailing pipe in the background. The framings and settings of each interview are used to discretely manipulate the emotional reactions of the viewers beyond what is verbally being said on the screen.

However, despite these clever tactics of emotional manipulation, the movie lacks cohesion in the communication of its key points. Individual interviews and segments of the film stand alone as effective persuasion tools, but there are too many independent segments for the audience to focus on. This draws attention away from any one topic, and instead, dilutes the significance of each point.


The movie itself has valid points and strong content, and it is an important topic for Ontarians and Quebecois alike. The unsafe working conditions and environmental degradation of mining operations is a well-known and historic issue that Sudbury and INCO have played key roles in. It is unfortunate that the documentary falls flat when communicating their arguments. The documentary would have benefited from a decreased runtime, and a focusing of its messages. As it stands, the movie attempts to tackle too much at once to be effective at communicating any one argument in a memorable fashion.


  1. Bullard, Robert. 'Environmental Justice in the 21st Century'. Compiled by David Schlosberg and John S. Dryzek. In ‘Debating the Earth: The Environmental Politics Reader’, 431-49. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  2. Brocking, Stephen. 'Science and Canadian Environmental Policy'. Compiled by Debora VanNijnatten. In ‘Canadian Environmental Policy and Politics: The Challenges of Austerity and Ambivalence’, 97-111. 4th ed. Toronto, Ontario: Oxford University Press, 2016.
  3. Forest Alert. Directed by Richard Desjardins and Robert Monderie. Canada: National Film Board, 1999.
  4. The Hole Story: The Real Cost of Mining in Canada. Directed by Richard Desjardins and Robert Monderie. Narrated by Richard Desjardins. National Film Board. 2011. Accessed February 10, 2019.
  5. The Invisible Nation. Directed by Richard Desjardins and Robert Monderie. Performed by Richard Desjardins. Canada: National Film Board, 2007. Film. November 30, 2012. Accessed February 17, 2019.
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