A bunch of Quebec zombies are set to stream around the world on Netflix, the American internet service that was staunchly criticized in the province last year for refusing to commit to French-language quotas as part of its $500-million investment in Canada.
The company is set to announce on Thursday that it will be showcasing Les Affamés (Ravenous) on its international service starting in March. Future projects are already in discussion with the movie's Quebec-based director, Robin Aubert, and other Quebec artists as part of Netflix Inc.'s growing investment in francophone productions.
The flick features zombies who build altars out of household objects, as well as humans fighting them off with machetes and guns. It won the award for best Canadian feature film at the Toronto International Film Festival last year.
The deal is Netflix's biggest project to date in Quebec, with the company hoping to show that it is seriously looking for quality content in the province.
"We're delighted to bring this unique Québécois voice to other countries around the world," Scott Stuber, head of Netflix's film group, said in a statement. "This is another exciting example of the investment the company is making in Canadian culture and bringing its stories and artists to the world."
The federal government has come under fire in recent months for refusing to impose a sales tax on Netflix and other foreign-based internet services.
The furor went up a notch, especially in Quebec, when Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly announced Netflix's five-year, $500-million investment in Canada last September. In the eyes of many critics, Netflix had obtained tax-free status in Canada in exchange for its investment.
There was actually nothing in the deal related to sales tax, but the criticism stuck, hurting Ms. Joly's standing in her home province. After a disastrous media tour in September and October, she adopted a low profile for a few weeks to stanch the negative media coverage.
The deal for Les Affamés will not put an end to Ms. Joly or Netflix's public-relations challenges in Quebec, but it still stands to defuse some of the attacks.
"Les Affamés by Robin Aubert is an example of great Canadian and Quebec filmmaking that should be shared and seen around the world," Ms. Joly's spokesman, Simon Ross, said in a statement. "It's vital that global audiences have the opportunity to experience French-Canadian content created by our talented artists and filmmakers."
Officials from Netflix are set to meet with Quebec producers in Montreal this spring, in addition to appearing at a three-day event put on by the Canadian Media Producers Association in Ottawa this week.
The U.S.-based company has steadfastly refused to adhere to the stringent rules surrounding the production of Canadian content or agree to quotas on French-language productions.
Mr. Aubert is a 45-year-old actor and director from Ham-Nord, in southeastern Quebec, where he shot the movie. In large part, the humans fighting back against the zombies are women, which Mr. Aubert has said illustrates his belief that women are stronger and smarter than men.
"I am so excited that viewers around the world will get the chance to watch Les Affamés. I'm also proud for the Netflix audience to experience its thrills and chills in its original Québécois version," Mr. Aubert said. "Making a zombie movie was my own personal way of expressing both my fears and hopes about what's lying ahead of us."
The movie features actress Monia Chokri, who has appeared in movies by well-known Quebec directors Denys Arcand and Xavier Dolan, and actor Marc-André Grondin, who has appeared in many North American and European productions.
The actual zombies in Les Affamés are played in large part by Mr. Aubert's family members and friends.
Les Affamés will appear on Netflix in Canada next year, but will start streaming in most countries this March.
It will be available in French or dubbed in English, with subtitles in a variety of languages.