CANNES '99: "Dogma" Has Its Day: Kevin Smith and Harvey Weinstein on the Film and Controversy
by Anthony Kaufman
By 2:30 a.m. Friday, Kevin Smith's comic fantasy about religion and faith, "Dogma," is expected to have already sold to a U.S. distributor. The film screened three times yesterday (Friday): an 11:00 am invitation only press screening which was mobbed with journalists and young people, an additional press screening in the afternoon, and the midnight public showing in the Grand Palais, where Harvey Weinstein will be waiting to make a deal with the many distribs scheduled to attend.
After the morning press screening, Miramax Co-Chairman Weinstein made a public appearance outside of the Olympia theater, which turned into an impromptu press conference. Reporters from Newsweek and Time, critics like Janet Maslin and Harlan Jacobson, and the young fans of the film, were all in a tight circle around the Miramax giant. In between schmoozing the kids, Weinstein fielded a few questions from the journalists, among them the query on everybody's lips: who will buy the film from the mini-studio that financed the film? "This movie is not a small movie," Harvey said. "It's not an art house movie."
He went on to hype the potential of the film: "It's going to be the size of 'Pulp Fiction,' if they [whatever distributor they sell to] do it right." The Miramax chief told indieWIRE that he'd like to see the film in theaters by Labor Day, but "it's not up to me now." When asked if any major distributors had seen the film yet, Weinstein denied the claim, directly contradicting an indieWIRE report that there was a distributor screening in New York last week.
On Monday, indieWIRE reported on the screening that was held May 12th in downtown Manhattan. An insider who attended the screening clearly labeled the showing a "distributor screening" in a conversation with indieWIRE last week, while another branded it a "research screening without the research." indieWIRE has confirmed the attendance of acquisitions executives, as well as the head of a major Hollywood studio at the NYC showing. Harvey and Bob Weinstein, Kevin Smith, and producer Scott Mosier were also in attendance, along with a handful of Miramax executives. Reviews from the screening have been published on Internet sites including Harry Knowles' "Ain't it Cool News" and the "NewsAskew" site.
As for when the film sells, Harvey said he hoped to make a deal in the early hours of the night, after the film gets out in the wee hours of the morning. Weinstein also went on record regarding their parent company, Disney, whom the executives bought "Dogma" back from when rumors of religious controversy began to stir. "I've had a good relationship with [Disney]," he said. "I made some great movies with them, but there's a trade off." Regarding the alleged irreverent religious reputation, Harvey promised the small crowd that Catholics wouldn't have a problem with the film, "it's only the fanatics that will."
At a press conference later that day, director Smith was present with his own comic take on the supposed controversies. "The Vatican contacted me and asked me to make a recruitment film for the Catholic Church and I was like, I could do one of those if you don't mind the naughty parts," he joked. More seriously, he said, "It came from the time in my life when I felt a little disenfranchised from the church and found my way back -- and saw my way clear to where I stand on faith and my faith in particular