Radford clarifies 'La Mula' suspension

Helmer states: "I did not believe the financing to be safe"

Filmmaker Michael Radford issued a statement Tuesday to set the record straight about suspending the shooting on his latest directorial outing "La Mula."

Radford took the step to counteract articles in the Spanish press about the project making it appear that he had abandoned the project following a press conference held by Spain's Gheko Films.

Billed as a Spanish Civil War comedy, it details the story of a Spanish muleteer soldier who cares more about his mule than the war and who experiences adventure, tragedy and love before returning to his village at the end of the war.

Radford wrote the screenplay with Juan Eslava Galan, author of the novel on which it is based.

The movie, which attracted backing from the U.K. Film Council and the Irish Film Board, is being produced by Gheko Films and shooting has been suspended six weeks into the scheduled seven week shoot after key signatures on co-production documents failed to materialize for the $10 million budgeted film.

Radford said: "I have suspended it ['La Mula'] and fully intend to go back and finish it. Why would I want to abandon the film after two and a half years' work and one week from the end of a very successful shoot?"

Radford, who also takes a co-producer credit on the project, said he felt in his capacity as one of the backers, he "did not believe the financing to be safe."

Said Radford: "It is true that the film has been fully financed for some time now as the Irish Film Board and the U.K. Film Council will confirm.

However, in order to release these funds all the co-producers have to sign together a number of agreements. I am mortified by the effect this has had on the cast and crew of the picture. However, they all understand that I have done this to try and safeguard not only their remuneration, but what is precious to all of this out of the wreckage. The film itself."

The U.K. Film Council said it has supported "La Mula" from an early stage and has seeded both it's development and production to the tune of £1.1 million ($2 million).

In a statement the Council said: "However, with the film a week away from the completion of shooting, we have become increasingly concerned that the film's financing arrangements have not yet been closed with the co-financiers. The U.K. Film Council, along with the Irish financiers involved in the project, have tried to keep discussions open with the Spanish producers and have urged them to fully collaborate in order to finalize the financial closing of the film."

Radford's first foray into Spanish-language filmmaking, "La Mula" is lead produced by Alejandra Frade and Bruce St. Clair's Gheko Films in Madrid.

Malaga's Gheko Films Sur also co-produces on the project also backed by Radford's Workhorse Productions, Ireland's Subotica and Germany's Integral Film.

Frade told Spain's El Pais that Workhorse had failed to meet its co-production payments on the picture and has replaced Radford with an unnamed director. But both the Council and the Irish Film Board said the release of funding hinges on Radford finishing the film.