Quebec director Daniel Roby spent 13 years working on his latest film, Target Number One, which finally arrived on the silver screen earlier this month.
The film tells the story of a Quebec man who gets caught up in an undercover police operation in Vancouver and ends up stuck in a prison in Thailand for drug trafficking.
Only when a Canadian investigative journalist takes an interest in his case does the complicated web of lies start to come apart.
Roby's screenplay is based on the true story of Alain Olivier, who spent eight years in a Thai prison because of a police operation gone wrong.
Olivier later sued the RCMP unsuccessfully, claiming he was set up by undercover cops who failed to come to his rescue after his arrest.
Roby began his research in 2007, attending the three-month-long civil trial in Montreal and listening to hours of testimony.
"I was there five days a week listening to everybody's version of what happened," he told CBC's All in a Weekend.
He interviewed the journalist who pursued the case, Victor Malarek, then of the Globe and Mail, and felt he had a grasp on what had really happened.
"I created a story that is based on what is the most plausible unfolding of events," he said.
Roby said he was inspired by the story of injustice and by the hard work of Malarek — played on the big screen by Josh Hartnett — who helped get Olivier released from the prison in Bangkok.
"Without this Canadian journalist, he would have died there," Roby told Radio-Canada.
In the film, the unlucky prisoner, played by Antoine-Olivier Pilon, is given a fictionalized name, that of Daniel Léger.
While the film takes some liberties with the original story, Roby maintains that it is mostly based on testimony and real anecdotes.
Roby, the director of Funkytown (2011) and Louis Cyr (2013), said the film was a labour of love, produced on a shoestring budget.
"I reinvested all my director's fees in the film in order to make up the financing," he said. "It's not for nothing that I've been working on this film for 13 years.''
He said after he and his team put so much work into the project, it was frustrating to see the film's release delayed by the pandemic.
Still, he preferred postponing to releasing the film to an online audience first.
"I wanted the big screen because I knew that the film's not just purely entertaining," said Roby. "It's a look at abuse of power [and] the importance of freedom of the press."
"Now are people ready to go back to the theatres? I don't know. But I am sure that there are people like me who are."