Cannes Quixote battle rages on

Festival organisers side with Gilliam

by Richard Mowe

Jonathan Pryce as Don Quixote in Terry Gilliam’s much troubled saga
Jonathan Pryce as Don Quixote in Terry Gilliam’s much troubled saga Photo: UniFrance

The heated saga over the inclusion of Terry Giliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote as the closing film in this year’s Cannes Film Festival rumbles on.

After criticisms by the Cannes Film Festival organisers of producer Paul Branco’s stance and his company Alfama Films Production, who go to court on Monday (7 May) to try to have the film pulled from the Festival and its subsequent release in France, the producers and the French distributors Océan have entered the fray saying that Branco “is not, has never been and will never be the producer of Don Quixote.”

They explain that Branco had been given an option to buy the rights through the English company RPC, but he never acquired the rights because he was unable to pay the 250,000 euro price tag. It is further suggested that because Gilliam realised that Branco was not going to honour the commitment, he decided to produce the film elsewhere and for half the budget that initially had been considered.

Branco retaliated by saying either Gilliam make the film in the way he wanted or the production would be irredeemably compromised and would never see the light of day. Gilliam refused to agree which resulted in Branco saying their collaboration was over and he wished him luck with another producer. Gilliam decided to revoke the contract. Branco has never paid any monies for the production.

The film was saved by the UK's Amy Gilliam and Spain's Mariela Besuievsky, with the support of the Belgian company Entre Chien et Loup and the French firm Kinology. They raised a budget of 16 million euros to enable the film to be made.

Earlier in the week the Cannes Film Festival organisers defended the decision to select The Man Who Killed Don Quixote by saying: “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.”

Thierry Frémaux, the Festival’s director, said the organisers “calmly await” the court’s decision, but that they “stand squarely on the side of filmmakers and in particular on the side of Terry Gilliam.”

The film is due to be shown in Cannes on 19 May and released in France the same day on 300 copies.

Meanwhile the Festival has just announced today (2 May) that director, writer and producer Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), writer and director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), actor and producer John Travolta and Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) will take part in four masterclasses representing a special focus on English and American Cinema.

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