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More than a year ago in Cannes, IFC Films picked up rights to Abel Ferrara‘s Welcome to New York — a retelling of the downfall of former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn starring Gerard Depardieu. But now the controversial director known for such sexually explicit films as Bad Lieutenant is speaking out against his distributor, accusing executives of trying to compromise his film.
Ferrara is bristling at a letter he says he received from IFC senior vp Arianna Bocco telling the filmmaker to deliver an R-rated version of Welcome so that it could match the version to be released on Showtime during its pay TV window. The film, which screened in Cannes in May, is currently beyond the R-rated threshold (The Hollywood Reporter‘s review described it as a cross “between performance piece and soft-core porn”).
For Ferrara, there’s no backing down. “Welcome to New York is not being distributed in the U.S. because of this company, IFC, which I’m totally disgusted with,” Ferrara tells THR in Venice, where he’s promoting his latest film, Pasolini, a biopic of Italian filmmaker, poet and novelist Pier Paolo Pasolini. “They knew from day one when they bought this film that they had the final version and that it wasn’t going to be?changed.”
But sources say sales agent Wild Bunch, which sold the film to IFC based on a 10-minute trailer, is contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated cut.
Ferrara, 63, who’ll be in Toronto for the Sept. 8 screening of Pasolini, sees the issue as indicative of a larger problem facing independent filmmakers. “I’ve f—ing had it with this corporate assault on the artists and the freedom of the artist, period. It’s like a war against movies,” he says. “Because 90 percent of the marketplace is owned by five guys masquerading as corporations. They’re vultures and they’re vampires, and they’re trying to suck the blood out of the life of the filmmaking community.”
IFC Films is owned and operated by AMC Networks.
“F— them and f— IFC and the Center. Any filmmaker that’s worth anything should go and burn that theater down,” he continued, referencing the New York cinema owned by IFC, which has been home to many of his works in the past.
“And as for my brother and sister filmmakers, don’t roll over to these punks,” he continued. “And don’t let Arianna Bocco and [Sundance Selects/IFC Films president] Jonathan Sehring and the other thousand just like them come on as big friends of the independent film community. They don’t give a shit about movies or the people that make them.”
IFC wouldn’t address Ferrara’s accusations directly. But Sehring says IFC still plans to bring the film to the big screen despite the filmmaker’s criticism. “We have been fans of Abel Ferrara for years and think he is an incredible filmmaker,” Sehring said. “We supported his work on this particular film over several years in the production process and plan to release this riveting film early next year for U.S. audiences.”
But Ferrara sees parallels between his own struggle and his latest subject, Pasolini. “If there’s anything to learn from Pasolini, it’s that he died for his films, man,” says Ferrara. “To re-cut these films is to destroy them. And to not give back to the film community is to destroy it.”
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