It is probably the most sensational news from this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF): Shortly after its premiere there, further screenings of the queer coming-of-age film “The People’s Joker” canceled at short notice. The exact background was initially unclear. What was decisive, however, was almost certainly the content of the work, or rather the all-too-familiar characters used in it.
At the heart of The People’s Jokeris the title of the iconic Batman villain, who has been struggling with his gender identity from an early age and later in Gotham City, where public comedy is largely banned, wants to pursue a comedy career. The film, designed as a parody, in which director, screenwriter and leading actress Vera Drew has processed many personal experiences, is also off the beaten path Joker-Performance full of references to the DC Universe. From the comic company and its parent company Warner Bros. However, the project was not authorized by Discovery. And yet it could soon see the light of day again…
So far it has been speculated that “The People’s Joker“ was withdrawn from the further course of the festival, since DC rights holder Warner may have approached Vera Drew and her team with a cease and desist order. Apparently this is not (yet) the caseaccording to a new statement from Drew, also shared via Twitter shared:
According to this, a “media conglomerate that should not be named” (whom Drew means here is probably more than an open secret) only gave her a “nasty letter” before the first screening, in which she was asked not to show the film. Drew and the TIFF organizers then decided to go through with the premiere anyway, but to cancel the three other performances that were also planned in order to avoid further headwinds.
This step was taken by Drew himself, so screenings of the film were not – as initially suspected – prohibited by third parties. “It was disappointing […]but I made this choice to protect the future of the film and our new friends the TIFF, who are among the biggest supporters of The People’s Joker’,” Drew explains the decision.
Still, the filmmaker is confident that The People’s Joker’ will be running at several other festivals around the world very soon. They are currently looking for a distributor who believes in their cause, wants to protect them and help make the film accessible to a wider public.
This optimism stems from the fact that Vera Drew refers to the fair use doctrine applicable in the USA, among other places, in her project, which states that copyrighted material may be used within certain limits for the purpose of criticism, opinion, reporting, education or scholarship. This includes, among other things, parodies.
In fact, Drew says he took extensive legal advice to ensure that “The People’s Joker“ also really meets the fair use requirements. Whether the latter is the case could now be checked again in detail. Finally, it is still unclear whether Warner will possibly take legal action against the project and perhaps try to prevent further performances. There has not yet been an official reaction from the studio giant to the film and the controversy surrounding it.