by Maud Kersnowski
Courtney Love's campaign to silence "Kurt and Courtney," the film she forced
Sundance to spike on copyright issues, continues to backfire by focusing national
publicity on the film. Every new letter her lawyers fax ends up splattered across
newspapers coast to coast. Even the Associated Press covered the film's theatrical
premiere in San Francisco Friday, and the latest legal document, sent late
Thursday, yet again demanding the film be pulled.
The first legal skirmish over "Kurt and Courtney" occurred long before Sundance.
Last summer a London paper, The Independent, ran an interview with director Nick
Broomfield in which he discussed his current project, "Kurt and Courtney." And
Love's lawyers came calling. While statements such as, "Was Kurt Cobain murdered?",
are innocuous in the States they run dangerously close to libelous under the
U.K.ís stricter laws. The Independent printed an apology. Soon afterwards Love's
representatives contacted the BBC insisting the British leviathan back away from
the production. "She got her fancy lawyers to make a lot of phone calls," the
filmís BBC series producer, Nick Frazier, told indieWIRE.
While these tactics were not effective on the BBC, who continued with the film,
they may have a higher success rate in Hollywood. Broomfield asserts ICM, Loveís
agency, has been putting calls into Miramax warning the Disney subsidiary to
stay clear of the legal embattled documentary. "I've received two or three calls
from mates of mine at Miramax who told me about the phone calls they'd received,"
Broomfield told indieWIRE.
Why Love continues to focus publicity on a film she wants to snuff out is a
mystery to many people associated with the film and its exhibition. "If I was
her I wouldn't want to attach myself to it [the film] and I certainly wouldn't
want to call anymore attention to it," mused Elliot Lavine, programmer for the
Roxie Cinema which is running the film for the next three weeks. "The more she
kicks about it, the more people are going to want to see it."
Love's most publicized attempt to quash Broomfield's less than flattering
portrayal of her began in late December. Her lawyers began pressuring the
Sundance Film Festival to cancel the film's world premiere screening because
they claimed it defamed the character of the grunge-rock-diva-turned-actress.
But Sundance stood by the film. "Eventually somebody got smart," says Sundance
Institute spokesman Stephen Rivers. Lawyers for Nirvana, Love, Cobain's estate
and EMI Music Recordings delivered papers claiming copyright infringement over
two songs in the film. Late on January 13, less than 48 hours before the film's
first screening, members of the Sundance Instituted decided, "You can go to the
barricades for a freedom of speech issue, but not for possible copyright
infringement," says Rivers. The film was yanked from the festival.
Even after Broomfield excised the contentious musical clips Sundance refused to
screen the film citing a fax received on January 16 from the BBC, who produced
"Kurt and Courtney" and own the UK transmission rights. The fax read: "We own
the film," according to Rivers. "They were basically saying...you can't show it
without our permission...that was the final nail in the coffin."
Broomfield refers to the BBC's ownership as a technicality. But since the BBC
was legally responsible for the film, any lawsuit would have been filed against
the BBC, not Broomfield. The film had never been prepared for a U.S. screening,
according to BBC series producer Nick Frazier. "The BBC doesn't have an agenda.
It was just worried about getting sued," says Frazier. But Broomfield accuses
Sundance of hiding behind the BBC's skirt, "It gave Sundance the wonderful
excuse that the BBC had basically kiboshed them putting the film back in."
As controversy swirled around Sundance every major news organization picked up
the story, giving "Kurt and Courtney" extensive national exposure. As resentful
as Broomfield is about Sundance pulling the film, he grudgingly agrees with
industry insiders that "The film no doubt benefited from a certain amount of
When confronted with the rumor that he intentionally submitted a film which was
legally unscreenable, as publicity stunt, Broomfield told indieWIRE, "That's
just insane! Maybe that's the spin PMK [Love's publicist's firm] wanted to put
on it, but it's an insane suggestion." Regardless, Rivers observed that,
"Broomfield and his representatives certainly milked it for everything it was
[indieWIRE contacted representatives for Courtney Love but they declined comment
on "Kurt and Courtney" or issues surrounding it.]
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