Movie pulled from TIFF over concerns about depiction of DC Comics character
The Toronto International Film Festival announced on their website early this morning that Vera Drews and her team have withdrawn The People's Joker from this year's slate after its premiere screening last night. All tickets will be refunded, and there will be no further screenings of the film.
According to a brief statement on the TIFF website posted early this morning, "the filmmaker has withdrawn this film due to rights issues," a clear indication that those at DC/Warner Brothers were none too pleased with this anarchistic take on iconic superhero characters.
Reviews for the LGBTQ+ take on super hero iconography were mostly positive, with many pointing out the importance of telling such a tale that for some is quite literally a life and death situation:
THE PEOPLE’S JOKER:— Ryan Hancock @ #TIFF22 (@ryanhancock9) September 14, 2022
I genuinely believe this is a piece of accessible independent art that will save the lives of many trans and queer kids and we need to do whatever we can to make sure they get to see it. #TIFF22
It was only a few years back that the splashy North American premiere of another Joker took place, with Todd Phillip's Venice-winning tale of the Batman villain taking in more than a billion dollars during its theatrical run.
The People's Joker isn't the first film to have been unceremoniously pulled from the slate. Controversial Ulrich Seidl's Sparta was yanked before anyone had chance to see it due to German publication Der Spiegel's allegations of abuse on set.
The People's Joker was listed by Midnight Madness programmer Peter Kuplowski as one of his top picks, describing it as "a true underground cinema gem", and as early as last evening before the screening he was encouraging audiences to attend, offering discounts for those to buy last minute tickets.
It remains uncertain how this will affect the film in future, and raises questions about potentially closer vetting of future selections by Kuplowski.
Given the festival's already precarious relationship with studios given their lean-in to streaming service titles, perhaps such a clearly provocative film has no space in a fest like TIFF.
If this ends up appearing as a mere "stunt" to generate attention for the premiere it undermines the festival's ethos, and does damage to its reputation with its many partners including key sponsors.
While the Midnight Madness slate has always operated slightly in the shadows, the result of this pull could seriously affect future selection decisions.
blogTO reached out to the Midnight Madness programmer for comment and has yet to hear back. There appears to be no plans to screen another film in its place.
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