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While in Venice promoting his latest film Pasolini, director Abel Ferrara attacked his U.S. distributor IFC Friday for asking him to recut Welcome to New York, his well-received film about Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s fall from grace, starring Gerard Depardieu. “They don’t give a shit about movies or people that make them,” Ferrara had told The Hollywood Reporter, noting that he was “disgusted” with IFC for trying to alter his film before its U.S. release.
Shortly after the story broke, Wild Bunch head Vincent Maraval, one of the financiers of the film, reached out from Toronto to tell his side of the story.
“First of all, I think it’s wrong what he says, and I think it’s not fair to attack IFC,” Maraval tells Hollywood Reporter.
Welcome to New York involved a much bigger stake for Wild Bunch than their average investment. Maraval claims that because of this, they made it clear to Abel from the beginning that they would need to sell an R-rated version of the film in the U.S. in order to get it out to as wide of an audience as possible. “In the contract we did with Abel, he agreed to do an R-rated version,” says Maraval. “It was something he accepted originally in order to have the film financed.”
Maraval shopped around a trailer for the film last year in Cannes, resulting in a buyer frenzy. Although there was a higher bid for the U.S. from an unknown buyer, Wild Bunch went with IFC because of their close relationship with Ferrara. IFC closed the deal for more than half a million dollars. The company has worked with the director for the past decade, distributing his previous works, including 4:44 Last Day on Earth, Go Go Tales and Mary.
According to Wild Bunch, IFC never asked for the cut. It was something that was a given from the start. “This is not between Abel and IFC,” says Maraval. “It’s between Abel and us. We’ve worked with Abel since ‘R Xmas. IFC has always supported him, even when the U.S. market said he was too difficult to work with. It’s very unfair that he’s blaming them. They are people that respect cinema very much, and especially his cinema.”
This past spring, according to Maraval, IFC watched the film and noted scenes that could be a problem for the U.S. distribution. Wild Bunch contacted Abel and asked him if he wanted to make the changes himself before the film’s release in Cannes. When he refused, Wild Bunch made the changes themselves.
The changes are “very minor,” according to Maraval, and “help the film’s flow.” Most of the cuts involve a shortened version of the hotel orgy scene at the film’s beginning. Ferrara refused to watch the new cut.
Wild Bunch showed the edited version to the film’s financiers and cast. “Depardieu said this film is even better than the original, and he wanted the newer version to be shown in Cannes,” says Maraval. “Everyone who saw it, who saw both versions, said the new one is better.” IFC also liked the new version and said it would receive an R rating.
Maraval reached out to Ferrara again and offered to pay more if Ferrara wanted to cut his own version. He says the director never replied.
“We contacted his lawyer and showed him the contract where he had agreed to deliver an R-rated version of the film,” says Maraval. “So his lawyer said ‘OK, I’ll try to convince him to change the film.’”
Maraval says he asked Ferrara 10 times to watch the new version, but the director, already working on his new film Pasolini, refused. “I think the attack of Abel is pure attitude, trying to look like the poor director that people abuse. But it’s not at all true,” says Maraval. “IFC never decided to cut the film behind his back.”
Wild Bunch released the film on VOD in France after Cannes, selling 200,000 clicks at $10 a pop, making it one of the top five all-time most profitable VOD releases in the country. “If you compare that to previous theatrical releases in France, 20,000 for 4:44 Last Day on Earth or 35,000 for Go Go Tales, it was a huge success,” says Maraval, who says the film was profitable for both Wild Bunch and for Ferrara.
Reached by e-mail, Ferrara commented on Maraval’s response. “Anyone who touches my film is in trouble legally, karmically and spiritually,” he says. “And anyone who bothers seeing such bullshit is more guilty than they are,” he says about the unapproved version of his film.
As of today, IFC is planning to release the edited Welcome to New York early next year in the U.S.
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