Michka Saäl

Zero Tolerance

2004, 75 minutes, documentary, French with English subtitles

Credits        Reviews        Screenings Backstory



The prickly relationship between police officers and members of minority groups in Montreal, particularly young people, and also among officers themselves. How can the police and young people put an end to this climate of mistrust and hostility?




Researched, written and directed by Michka Saäl


Image: Sylvestre Guidi

Sound recording: Pierre Bertrand

Sound design: Francine Poirier

Editor: Michel Giroux

Production Manager: Jelena Popovic

Original music: La Main Froide

Production: National Film Board of Canada

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“A film that could change your perception of reality that, socially, we have a long way to go before we can reach a happy balance among Quebecois of all origins.”

Sylvain Prevate, Le Journal de Montréal, March 27, 2004


Zero Tolerance recommends opening towards others, a better multicultural approach, and more respect from the police towards immigrants or the children of immigrants. Nice idea. Let’s do it!”

Luc Perreault, La Presse, March 27 2004


“The documentary by Michka Saäl treats a heated topic too seldom addressed in Montreal, but without really showing all points of view…”

Odile Tremblay, Le Devoir, March 27, 2004


“The latest hard-hitting film directed by a filmmaker of whom we had almost lost trace, Michka Saäl… And what traces she leaves with the incendiary Zero Tolerance. The film covers all points of view of a sensitive issue, racial profiling which so many police officers have been accused of.”

Denis Côté, Ici, March 25, 2004



"Zéro Tolérance has been criticized by the Montreal police department for what it calls one-sided reporting of a complex issue. Yet the force gave Saäl access to its men and women. She shot what she saw... (the film) needs to be embraced as a voice of impassioned reason from a part of the community that needs to be heard. The last thing the cops want to do is turn their backs on that voice. “

John Griffin, Montreal Gazette, March 26, 2004


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“This revealing and unsettling film fits perfectly within the Week of Action Against Racism, which ends next Sunday but whose impact one would wish could last the entire year.”

V. Quintal, Voir, March 25, 2004




Cinéma du Réel, Paris

Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois

Theatres: Ex-Centris, Montréal



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The sorcerer of the sand

My first meeting with Michka, who was soon to become a close friend. I saw instantly that Michka was like a sorcerer of sand, of the desert, a good sorcerer! A man in the film, the first black policeman in Montreal, did not want to talk about traumatic events that were important to the film. Michka coaxed him to speak of everything he had experienced in the police force. To do that, she met him in the men’s washroom to talk with an intimacy that I had naively believed would be intimidating to her. An emotional experience, this edit, that brought me into contact with the generosity and compassion that drove Michka, as well as her sometimes quick-tempered indignation in the face of injustice.

Michel Giroux, Editor


The scandal

“Reached by telephone, Michka Saäl confirms that the day before the advance screening (of Zero Tolerance) that the Montreal police were ‘officially furious’ about a film they judged to be incomplete, but unofficially (she knows) certain officers recognize the scale of the problem.”

Jean Phillipe Angers, Métro, March 31, 2004

The start of an extraordinary collaboration

I met Michka for the first time for Zero Tolerance in a tiny restaurant in Outremont. It belonged to a Greek woman that Michka seemed to know. Right away we started talking about cinema and exile. Hers and that of my parents. Of Godard, Antonioni et Ozu. How my father left Europe with $100 in his pocket on a Greek ship bound for Canada in 1952. How Michka fled Tunisia and arrived in France. Basically, in the space of two hours we knew each other’s life story. I had before me a cinephile with a passion that lit up her green eyes each time she spoke. It was the start of an extraordinary collaboration. Six films over the years. Each one special and wonderfully constructed by this luminous filmmaker.

Sylvestre Guidi, Director of photography

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