• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Lawsuit claims warlord documentary hijacked by warlord-like filmmaker

Doug-in-malawi When we first heard that Douglas Busby of Damascus Films was being sued, we were intrigued. After all, very few production company websites tout a "cinematic effort to increase the well being of human kind by communicating paradigm-shifting ideas."

We finally got a hold of the complaint filed Monday by a company called Roller Coaster Films, and it doesn't disappoint.

Roller Coaster claims Busby was hired to co-write and direct a documentary about Congolese warlord Laurent Nkunda but has "hijacked the film and is holding it for ransom according to his unreasonable, irrational, and unlawful whims and demands."

Wait, there's more.

Roller Coaster also says Busby has threatened the company's husband-and-wife team "with bodily harm and has attacked and injured the husband."

The main dispute is between Busby and RCF's Tony Arbini, who served as executive producer, co-writer, and co-director of photography on the film. The two worked together, making several trips to Africa, before their relationship began to sour in September, the lawsuit says.

By October, all hell had broken loose. Arbini allegedly sent Busby a text message requesting he cease work on the film since RCF had run out of funds to produce it, and Busby allegedly replied in a text: "F— you. Come on down and get it. Try and f–– with my career and hard work...Hide behind all your lawyers and watch me finish this film and put it out. What are you gonna do sue me?..."

Well, of course. The complaint, filed by Lawrence Iser and Chad R. Fitzgerald at Santa Monica's Kinsella Weitzman firm, goes on to allege that Busby abuses the prescription medication Xanax; attempted to purchase a handgun in Kenya; injured Arbini in a physical attack; barricaded himself in his hotel room and set fire to RCF's main camera; refused to depart when fired from the project; claimed to be working for the government in a "classified" capacity; and more.

Yet for all the colorful allegations, the causes of action are boring old copyright infringement and unfair competition. The complaint says the film was eventually delivered to Arbini but Busby has been submitting the documentary to film festivals and can't be controlled.

We contacted Busby, who hurled his own accusations at Arbini, including drug use, terrorist ties, and failure to complete the film. He describes the lawsuit as full of nonsense and says he laughed out loud when reading it.
"Only one of us has a page on IMDB," he says.

It's always sad to see a lawsuit ruin an attempt at improving humanity.