Spanish Film Festival Directors Condemn Legal Action Against Sitges Fest Chief

Barcelona prosecutors lodged complaint against Angel Sala for screening "A Serbian Film," which has child rape scenes, in Oct. 2010.

MADRID -- Spain's festival directors banded together Tuesday to condemn legal action taken against Sitges International Film Festival director Angel Sala for screening A Serbian Film in the October 2010 edition.

"The office of the Public Prosecutor in Barcelona appears to be taking us back to times of censorship limitations on freedom of expression and cultural programming that we sincerely believed belonged to the past," an open letter backing Sala said.

The letter was signed by directors of Spain's top festivals, including San Sebastian's Jose Luis Rebordinos, Malaga's Carmelo Romero, Gijon's Jose Luis Cienfuegos and Valladolid's Javier Angulo.

Prosecutors in Barcelona lodged a complaint against Sala, accusing him of screening child pornography by including Srdjan Spasojevic's feature debut about an unemployed adult film star.

The charge is linked to two rape scenes involving children, one a newborn and the other a young boy. The baby was represented by a doll.

"Over and above our surprise at pinning responsibility of this kind on a cultural programmer, and not on those theoretically responsible for the content in question (the director and the producers, if anyone at all), we wish to recall, in addition to our support of Angel Sala, that the film has been screened over the last twelve months in festivals in Brussels, Montreal, London, Oporto, Austin, San Francisco, Toronto, Sofia, Hamburg, Helsinki, Puchon (South Korea), Ravenna and Stockholm, among others," the letter read.

A Serbian Film was nixed by London's FrightFest when the British Board of Film Classification called for four minutes to be cut. But it ran at Sitges festival uncut in three late night sessions sparking heated debate in Spain and pushing San Sebastian Fantasy and Terror Film Week to yank the title from its lineup in November.

The controversial film won a Fipresci prize at Serbia's Vrnjacka Banja festival.