The curse of Quixote looms over Cannes

Gilliam and producer fight it out in court

by Richard Mowe

Is this a legal wrangle I see before me? Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce in Terry Gilliam’s troubled The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
Is this a legal wrangle I see before me? Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce in Terry Gilliam’s troubled The Man Who Killed Don Quixote Photo: UniFrance

A row has blown up over the inclusion of Terry Gilliam’s long-awaited The Man Who Killed Don Quixote after it was chosen for an Out of Competition slot as closing film in the Cannes Film Festival’s official selection.

Producer Paulo Branco and his company Alfama Films Production have been in dispute with the other producers of the film (namely Tornasol, Kinology, Entre Chien et Loup and Ukbarfilmes) as well as the French distributor Ocean Films Distribution International. Branco is going to court in Paris to prevent the screening of the film, which he claims is in violation of his rights in regard to the production.

All ready for cinema screens: the French poster for The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
All ready for cinema screens: the French poster for The Man Who Killed Don Quixote Photo: UniFrance

The legal hearing is scheduled to take place on 7 May, the day before the Festival begins. The film’s screening at the Festival has been scheduled for 19 May, the same day as its release in France.

The French industry publication Le Film Français reports that the situation goes back to 2016, when Gilliam and producer Branco reached an agreement in which Branco would provide the necessary funding for the project, and allow Gilliam to have the creative freedom to realise his vision, in exchange for the rights to the film. When Branco failed to provide the funding Gilliam moved on and found another producer. Branco has claimed that the film cannot be shown or released until he gives permission. He suggests he owns the rights to the project, based on the 2016 contract.

Gilliam, who has been trying to bring the ill-fated project to the screen over two decades, argues that the contract was null and void due to the lack of funding from Branco. The pair already have been in court with Gilliam suing Branco over the rights. The judgement, however, will not be announced until 15 June, thereby throwing its Cannes bow into jeopardy.

Jonathan Pryce plays the delusional knight who is convinced he is the real Don Quixote. After he confuses an advertising executive named Toby (Adam Driver) for his squire, Sancho Panza, the two men set out on a journey that seduces Toby into Quixote’s illusionary world. In 2000, filming with Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis was abandoned when torrential rains destroyed the set and leading man Jean Rochefort who died last year, had to quit for health reasons - all recorded in the documentary Lost In La Mancha.

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