Legal action could prevent Terry Gilliam’s passion project from premiering at the festival next month.
You’ve got to feel for Terry Gilliam: following a notoriously difficult production period, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was announced as the closing film for the 71st Cannes Film Festival – only for its fate to be thrown into uncertainty by a lawsuit taken out against the director.
Producer Paulo Branco and his company Alfama Films Production are looking to block the film’s world premiere next month due to an ongoing dispute over the rights to the project. According to a statement released by AFP, the film cannot be “exploited” without “pre-agreement from Alfama Films Production.”
Amazon Studios, who own the US distribution rights to the film, have yet to comment on this latest negative turn of events, but Cannes festival chief Thierry Frémaux has responded to AFP’s claims with a strongly-worded press release in which he states that it is now, “more important than ever to remember that artists need us to support them, not attack them.” Here’s Frémaux’s statement in full:
On April 25, Paulo Branco and his production company Alfama Films took legal action aimed at preventing the planned screening of Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote on Saturday, May 19 at the closing event of the 2018 Festival de Cannes.
The legal application will be considered at an urgent hearing next Monday, May 7: the day before the Festival opens.
As Mr Branco has so far been very prominent in the media and legal spheres it seems necessary to state the reasons which led us to choose the film and risk action by the producer, whose lawyer, Juan Branco, likes to point out that his image and his credibility are essentially built on his numerous appearances at Cannes and by his closeness to the great auteurs honoured by the Festival. The latter is true, which adds to our bemusement.
During the winter, just as The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was presented to us by Terry Gilliam, by the sales company Kinology Films and by the distributor Océan Films, Mr Branco informed us of his legal action against the director, following the breakdown of relations between them after the film’s pre-production.
Such legal disputes are not unusual. The Festival is regularly informed of them, but it is not in its remit to take a position on these sorts of matters. Therefore, after careful consideration and because it seemed possible the film would be released at the same time, we decided to feature this work in the Official Selection.
The Festival de Cannes’ mission is to choose works purely on artistic grounds and the selection must, above all, be with the agreement of the film’s director. This is the case here. Past experience had made us aware of possible legal action and of the risks we were running, but as it happens, when we took our decision, there was no opposition to the screening of the film at the Festival.
We therefore did not act carelessly or in any way “force matters” as Mr Juan Branco has said in the press. Our entire profession knows that “forcing matters” has always been Mr Branco’s favourite method, and we should recall that he organised a press conference a few years ago where he denounced the Festival de Cannes because it had not kept a “promise to select” one of his films. This was an accusation which didn’t go anywhere, because the Festival does not make promises to select films: it either selects them or it does not. Today, Mr Branco has allowed his lawyer to use intimidation and defamatory statements, as derisory as they are ridiculous, one of which targets the former President of an event which he has made use of throughout his career to establish his own reputation.
The Festival de Cannes will respect the legal decision, whatever it may be, but we strongly affirm that we stand squarely on the side of filmmakers and in particular on the side of Terry Gilliam. We know how important this project, which has gone through so many trials and tribulations, is to him. The trouble were caused on this last occasion by the actions of a producer who has shown his true colours once and for all during this episode and who has threatened us, via his lawyer, with a “humiliating defeat”.
Defeat would be to succumb to threats. At a time when two filmmakers invited to take part in the Official Selection are under house arrest in their own countries, at a time when Wanuri Kahiu’s film Rafiki, which is part of the Official Selection, has just been struck by censorship in Kenya, the country where it was produced, it is more important than ever to remember that artists need us to support them, not attack them. That has always been the tradition of the Festival de Cannes and so it will remain.
The screening at the closing event of the Festival is subject to the decision of the judge at the hearing on May 7. The release of 300 copies of the film in France is currently scheduled for Saturday, May 19.
The Festival de Cannes calmly awaits the court’s decision.
Pierre Lescure, President, & Thierry Frémaux, General Delegate.
Published 30 Apr 2018
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