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The People’s Joker, Vera Drew’s debut feature about a trans woman working in a comedy set in the Batman universe, has been pulled from the Toronto International Film Festival for further screenings after its world premiere.
“The filmmaker has withdrawn this film due to rights issues. We apologize for any inconvenience. Current ticket holders will receive an email from TIFF customer relations with information on their purchase,” TIFF said on its website for The People’s Joker on Wednesday ahead of another screening at Scotiabank Theatre tonight that is now not going ahead.
Festival organizers confirmed the withdrawal of the queer coming-of-age tale from its additional play at TIFF. The filmmakers behind the movie, including the production banner Haunted Gay Ride Productions, offered no direct comment when The Hollywood Reporter reached out.
Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns Batman and other DC Entertainment characters, could not be reached for comment on whether the studio has asserted its rights to copyright protection over the use of the Joker character and Batman universe in the TIFF title.
The People’s Joker features Drew starring as an aspiring clown grappling with gender identity as she aspires to join UCB Live, a popular TV sketch comedy set in the Batman universe.
The withdrawal notice followed the first screening in Toronto as part of the midnight madness program at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. The film’s premiere early Wednesday morning was quickly followed by the withdrawal announcement being posted on the festival’s website.
Drew on Tuesday in a Zoom interview said that the filmmakers know they’re in an “illegal gray zone. … I, Vera Drew, don’t own Joker and Batman, but it’s a parody,” the trans comic told the interviewer, as the film aims at copyright protection as a parody.
The queer coming-of-age movie besides Drew stars Lynn Downey, Kane Distler, Nathan Faustyn, David Liebe Hart, Christian Calloway, Griffin Kramer, Phil Braun, Tim Heidecker, Ember Knight and Sarah Sherman.
The People’s Joker is Drew’s feature debut after credits that include On Cinema (’17), Who Is America? (’18) and Our Bodies (’19), in addition to music videos.
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