IFC Accuses Director Abel Ferrara of "Slinging Mud and Insults" (Exclusive)
The distributor, which plans to release an R-rated version of the director's 'Welcome to New York,' says the filmmaker refused to make his own edits when offered the chance.
Responding to a cease-and-desist letter from director Abel Ferrara, IFC Films, which is releasing Ferrara’s new film Welcome to New York on March 27, says that it offered Ferrara the opportunity to create his own R-rated version of the film for U.S. release, but the filmmaker never responded to the offer.
While IFC execs have not yet received Ferrara’s letter, the distributor issued a statement today, saying, “We regret that Mr. Ferrara has refused to engage with us past slinging mud and insults. We’d have welcomed the opportunity to work more closely with him on the film, if he’d been willing.”
Inspired by the trial of former IMF-head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Welcome to New York stars Gerard Depardieu in a much lauded portrayal of Strauss-Kahn’s widely publicized fall from grace after he was accused of raping a hotel maid during a visit to the Sofitel New York Hotel in Manhattan. When it screened in Cannes last year, it received positive reviews for its biting story and raw performances. The Hollywood Reporter called the film “scandalous” and “uproarious.”
But now Ferrara is alleging that his right to final cut has been violated by Wild Bunch, the film’s global distributor, which has created an edited version of the movie for release in the U.S. and other countries around the world. For its part, Wild Bunch contends that Ferrara was contractually obligated to provide Wild Bunch – which helped finance the film – an R-rated version. “It was something he accepted originally in order to finance the film,” Wild Bunch head Vincent Maraval has told THR. Maraval also said that Wild Bunch offered to let Ferrara make the changes to the film himself, but that Ferrara refused, and so Wild Bunch went ahead and created its own R-rated version.
Maraval described the cuts as “very minor,” although they amount to 17 minutes total, trimming the original 125-minute film down to 108 minutes. The edited version, which has been shown in Europe, eliminates a subplot scene, removes overt political dialog and shaves down a hotel orgy scene with multiple jump cuts. Most notably, it shifts the hotel rape scene to a flashback, leaving the maid’s credibility more open to interpretation.
“The version being released in the U.S. may lead viewers to think that maybe she imagined it,” Ferrara says. “It does not respect the woman who was raped at all, and the fact that my name is on this film is a crime.” In his letter, Ferrara charged that the edits change the “political and moral content” of the film, and he says that he plans to move forward with legal action if IFC goes ahead with the planned release.
IFC contends that Ferrara’s argument is with Wild Bunch, rather than the U.S. distributor, which has handled such Ferrara movies in the past as 4:44 Last Day on Earth, Go Go Tales and Mary, and which put up more than half a million dollars to acquire the rights to his newest feature.
“Our contract with Wild Bunch (the film’s sales agent) is for an R-rated version,” IFC’s statement said. It claimed that Ferrara did not respond to an offer to create his own R-rated version. IFC further said that it offered to screen the director’s original cut at the Anthology Film Archives theater in New York, but “it is our understanding that the theater was in touch with Abel Ferrara, after which they declined to screen it.”
IFC will release the R-rated version of Welcome to New York, provided by Wild Bunch, on VOD and in select theaters March 27. “Any edits made to the original version of Welcome to New York were made by Wild Bunch, since Mr. Ferrara did not respond to our offer,” the company said.
Read IFC Films’ full statement:
At IFC Films, we place high priority on our relationships with filmmakers and want to address the controversy and drama around the film Welcome to New York, which has now expanded beyond the scandalous story depicted in the movie. We want to set the record straight about our role as the U.S. distributor of the film.
Our contract with Wild Bunch (the film’s sales agent ) is for an R-rated version. We offered Mr. Ferrara an opportunity to edit his own R-rated version of the film at our expense, but he did not respond. After his threats of violence towards the IFC Center last September, we decided we could not risk showing the film there, but we offered to screen his original directors cut at the Anthology Film Archives theater in New York. It is our understanding that the theater was in touch with Abel Ferrara, after which they declined to screen it.
On March 27th, we will be releasing on VOD and in select theaters the version of Welcome to New York that has been delivered to us by Wild Bunch, in accordance with our contractual obligation. Any edits made to the original version of Welcome to New York were made by Wild Bunch, since Mr. Ferrara did not respond to our offer.
It’s a core mission of IFC Films to support and champion our filmmakers and we regret that Mr. Ferrara has refused to engage with us past slinging mud and insults. We’d have welcomed the opportunity to work more closely with him on the film, if he’d been willing.