DAILY NEWS: Cowboy v. Ontario Film Board; Comedy Fest Winners
with articles by Matthew Ross and Brian Brooks/indieWIRE
>> Cowboy Guns for Justice In Ontario
(indieWIRE/03.08.02) -- Cowboy Pictures has renewed its battle with the Ontario Film Review Board, the organization that approves and rates all films that play in Canada's most populous province. Last year, the New York-based distributor
lost a well-publicized battle with the organization when Catherine Breillat's
"Fat Girl" did not make it past the organization's ratings committee, thus
preventing it from a theatrical release in Ontario. Cowboy later appealed
the board's decision but was turned down again. "Fat Girl," which was
co-distributed in Canada by Cowboy and Lions Gate Films, concerns a
heavy-set girl observing the emotional and sexual seduction of her older
sister by an Italian college student.
Now, Cowboy is taking the board to Canadian court in the hope of overturning
the decision. The company, headed by John Vanco and Noah Cowan, has retained the services of lawyer Craig Martin from Toronto-based law firm Stikeman Elliott to lead its legal battle in the Divisional Court, Ontario Superior
Court of Justice. The Ministry of Consumer and Business Services will
represent the Ontario Film Review Board, and the Attorney General of Ontario
will defend the constitutionality of the legislation.
"Banning 'Fat Girl' was a terrible decision by a reactionary board, blind to
the serious artistic purpose of this film," said Cowan in a prepared
statement. "But their rash actions have made the people of Ontario aware of
how this unelected body is curtailing their freedom of expression." Stikeman
Elliott has agreed to work on the case on a pro bono basis.
Martin appeared before the court on Feb. 11 to request an extension of time
from the Court to commence the appeal. This week, Martin served and filed
the Notice of Appeal and Notice of Constitutional Question, which formally
commenced the appeal process. The Canadian Civil Liberties Union, which
participated in the challenge to the constitutionality of the Ontario Film
Review Board's powers in the landmark case in 1984, has expressed support of
Cowboy Pictures' appeal, and has indicated that it will very likely seek
intervenor status in order to join Cowboy Pictures and Lions Gate in the
proceedings. [Matthew Ross]
>> Comedy Fest Presents Awards and a "Celebration of Free Speech"
(indieWIRE/03.08.02) -- Oliver Stone was on hand to present awards for the
recently wrapped U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado with U.K.
director Clare Kilner receiving the Best Feature prize for "Janice Beard: 45
Words Per Minute." Sarah Sugarman took the Best Screenplay award for "Very Annie Mary" and duo Bill Weber and David Weissman won Best Director for their 2002 Sundance doc "The Cockettes," about the '70s San Francisco theater group famed for its decadence. Trent Cooper received the Best Short nod, sponsored by Kodak, for his film "The Comeback," and the Audience Award for Best Feature went to writer/director Jeff Daniels for "Super Sucker."
The Festival, which took place Feb. 27 through March 3, honored Whoopi
Goldberg with the AFI Award in recognition of her work in film and
television; Lily Tomlin was also recognized with a career tribute. USCAF and
the First Amendment Center also presented a "Celebration of Free Speech"
with George Carlin, Bill Maher, and Norman Lear. "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were on hand for performances and seminars trumping the work of artists who use comedy as a means to engage dialogue for social change. [Brian Brooks]