Quebec theatres to screen controversial 'Hold-Up' film about COVID-19

A documentary-style film about the COVID-19 pandemic that was too controversial for the online streaming platform Vimeo is making its way to the big screen in Quebec cinemas.

Hold-Up, a film by Pierre Barnérias, is reportedly filled with conspiracy theories and half-truths, but Quebecers in who want to watch the nearly three-hour film can do so beginning Friday at Guzzo Cinemas.

A description of the film on the Internet Movie Database reads: "'Hold-Up' claims that a global conspiracy plot had been formed by the world's elites, and particularly the World Economic Forum. According to the film, the SARS-CoV-2 virus was deliberately created for an excuse to enslave humanity."

Last fall, Agence France-Presse fact-checked the film and found upwards of 30 misleading or false claims about the pandemic. Some of the claims include face masks are ineffective at limiting the transmission of the virus and that COVID-19 was made in a lab at Institut Pasteur several years ago.

Vince Guzzo, the head of Guzzo Cinemas, told CTV News he watched the film earlier this year and said, "I’ve seen and read worse on the Internet" and has no problems screening it, noting the Régie du cinéma gave it the General rating for everyone to watch.

He said he doesn’t believe in conspiracy theories, but does believe people should have the right to watch something that others don’t agree with.

"I don't think this will convert anybody to believing that there was a big conspiracy theory -- and God knows I don't believe there was one. I just think there was really bad management of a crisis," Guzzo said.

"So unlike our premier in Quebec, I don't believe I have to control the message of what people are getting, I think people are intelligent enough to receive a message and decipher what's right or wrong and what's true or not true."

He’s been no stranger to screening controversial films, including The Last Temptation of Christ and the anti-abortion film, Unplanned, and said he's against censorship of unpopular views. 

"We're not the ones who are going to determine what people are entitled to see or not see, once the government has determined that they are allowed to see it or not see," he said.

One infectious disease specialist in Montreal said people who choose to watch the film should consider getting information about the virus from credible sources.

"I just caution people who are going there [to watch it] to take that with not just a grain of salt, but enough salt that will probably raise your blood pressure," said Dr. Matthew Oughton, attending physician in the division of infectious diseases at the Jewish General Hospital.

Oughton has not seen the film but after reading reviews in the press on Wednesday, he said a lot of claims in films like this are easy to make but largely "go against the preponderance of the evidence" readily available about the effectiveness of sanitary measures.

"So for anybody who's going to watch a documentary like this, and they aren't sure whether vaccination for COVID-19 really works, they're not sure whether face masks really are effective or not, if you want, you're certainly welcome to go watch this documentary, but I would suggest you also turn to other sources of information, generally credible and trustworthy sources of information, when it comes to COVID-19."

When asked if he is planning to watch the film once it hits the theatres he said he’d rather watch the Habs in the playoffs.

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