Since "A Serbian Film" premiered on the festival circuit last year, the title by first-time director Srdjan Spasojevic has courted controversy for its gruesome depiction of rape, child sodomy, murder and altogether unpleasantness. That said, it also received the Audience Award at Portugal's Fantasporto Festival, among others.
Now, Angel Sala, director of the Sitges Film Festival of Catalonia, has come under fire from the city of Barcelona. It has filed a complaint against Sala for screening the horror pic last October; specifically, the city cites the film's scenes involving child abuse.
A number of Spanish film festival directors have rallied to Sala's defense, jointly signing a letter condemning the legal action taken by the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Barcelona.
In their declaration, the directors make a point to express their surprise that the Office chose to pin responsibility on the Sala and not on Spasojevic and the film's producers.
The film has been acquired by Philadelphia-based Invincible Pictures for U.S. distribution.
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Below find the letter backing the director of the Sitges Festival:
We, the undersigned, directors of Spanish film festivals, wish, in view of the leak to the press published this weekend, to state our surprise at the legal action taken against Ángel Sala, director of the Sitges International Film Festival of Catalonia, for having included in the 2010 programme of the said event, at sessions for adults only, A Serbian Film, which it is claimed contains violent, pornographic scenes conflicting with the rights of the child.
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 Ángel 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. A Serbian Film has also enjoyed screening at the two most prestigious film markets in the world: Cannes, and the American Film Market in Santa Monica, California. All of this without anyone, to date, having taken legal steps of any kind against the film, those responsible for it or its programmers.
We must also add that the film has won prestigious awards including three at Montreal (Best Film; Gold Award for Best European Film and Most Innovative Film); the Audience Award at the Fantasporto Festival in Oporto (less than a week ago); and the Best Screenplay Award at the FIPRESCI Festival in Serbia.
We also condemn the fact that behaviour such as that shown by 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.
Javier Angulo (Valladolid Festival)
Josetxo Cerdán Los Arcos (Punto de Vista / Pamplona)
José Luis Cienfuegos (Gijon Festival)
José Luis Rebordinos (San Sebastian Festival)
Carmelo Romero (Malaga Spanish Film Festival)
José Sánchez Montes (Granada Festival / Cines del Sur)
Claudio Utrera (Las Palmas Festival)
Javier Martín Domínguez (Seville Festival)
Eduardo Trías (Huelva Festival)
Josemi Beltrán (San Sebastian Horror & Fantasy Film Festival)