"Courtney" Screens in S.F. Despite Love's Legal Threat -- Part One
by Maud Kersnowski
Despite a letter from Courtney Love's lawyer threatening a libel suit,
San Francisco's Roxie Cinema opened the recut version of "Kurt and
Courtney," a film bounced from the Sundance Film Festival when Love
screamed copyright infringement. With "Kurt and Courtney's" theatrical
premiere, director Nick Broomfield is attempting to prove the film is
No legal action was taken on Friday when the film opened for a
three week run, but Broomfield and Love may still get their day in
court. "So far, so good. No lawyers or sheriffs showed up. I assume
we'll hear from them this week," says Roxie's Programmer Elliot Lavine,
who saw the film for the first time a week before it opened.
Courtney Love's lawyer, Michael Chodos, threatened the Roxie under
California's libel law which, according to a letter sent to the Roxie,
states that a venue is as responsible as the filmmaker for the
material it presents. Love and her representatives have apparently not
seen the film. "We are told Mr. Broomfield's movie conveys the
message...that Ms. Love killed her husband Kurt Cobain or somehow
participated in his death. Such accusations are false and defamatory,
nothing more.They are extremely damaging to Ms. Love and very hurtful,"
the letter states.
"Of course, it's hurtful and she [Love] wouldn't want to see it. It
wouldprobably make her somewhat insane...but it's just information being
presented as opposed to an allegation," says Lavine in defense of the
film. "They [Love's lawyers] are exercising their right to intimidate,
by saying if you show this we'll sue you."
The Roxie letter is not the first attempt to silence "Kurt and Courtney"
by labeling the film as libelous. Love's lawyers contacted Sundance in
late December complaining it was unfair to Love. But Sundance lawyers
rejected the libel argument as a sufficient reason to pull the film,
according to Sundance Institute spokesperson Stephen Rivers. Only after
the defamation of Love's character was a dead point did her lawyers come
up with the copyright issue as a way to squash the film's screening.
The most recent letter fires not only at the film, but also Hank
Harrison, Love's biological father who appears in the film. Apparently
Love's representatives were responding to a rumor that Harrison was
speaking at the Friday night show. Harrison did attended the premiere,
but both Lavine and Broomfield's spokesman, David Mortimer, deny that
Harrison was ever scheduled to speak. "He was a paying customer, like
everyone else," Lavine told indieWIRE.
Harrison and Love have not spoken in years and he never met Cobain,
according to Love's EMI spokesman. In Broomfield's film Harrison stops
just short of accusing his daughter of murder. "I love my daughter very,
very much," said Harrison on Friday, according to the Associated Press.
"I also have very, very dark suspicions about what went on (with Kurt's
death) because of my real experience with Courtney."
Love's highly publicized battle with Harrison may be behind some of the
recent legal maneuverings speculates Mortimer. "I just keep wondering if
it's an issue with her biological father," he says. "If I were her
people...I wouldn't have drawn the extra publicity."
The national press coverage received by "Kurt and Courtney" when
Sundance canceled the film's screening has been a double edged sword.
Everyone connected with the film admits Love attacking the film gave it
a huge amount of publicity. But at the same time, Broomfield worries the
high profile legal entanglements have scared off distributors. With a
clean bill of health from his lawyers, Broomfield told indieWIRE that
his main goal for the three week Roxie run is to prove that picking up
"Kurt and Courtney" will be a safe investment. And Love's most recent
legal move may help him do just that.
[The complete text of the letter sent by Courtney Love's lawyer to the Roxie
Theater is available]
[Tomorrow indieWIRE will publish a follow up article based on
Maud Kersowski's interview with filmmaker Nick Broomfield last week.]
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