In Love and War: Why Did Sundance Drop "Kurt and Courtney?"
by Mike Jones
Nick Broomfield crowded around the media during a press conference.
Photo Credit: Mike Jones
Citing a number of unresolved legal matters, the Sundance Film Festival has
dropped Nick Broomfield’s documentary on the life and death of Kurt Cobain,
titled “Kurt and Courtney.” While the specific issue is the music rights of
some songs used in the film, a festival spokesperson told indieWIRE yesterday
that the legal issues extended beyond the licensing of the songs. Rumors of
the decision were circulating weeks before the fest, but the official word
came two days before the opening night, leading many here in Park City to
speculate as to why Sundance would pull such a high-profile film at the very
In an interview with indieWIRE, Broomfield, who is also on the festival jury,
explained that he was confused and saddened by the Sundance Institute’s position.
He stated that the two songs in question, songs performed by Cobain’s band
Nirvana and Courtney Love’s band Hole, were licensed by the BBC for festival
exhibition. However, a festival spokesperson stated that lawyers for the
Institute received a letter from Love’s record label EMI explaining that
Broomfield in fact does not have the rights.
Yet, Broomfield said he was sure the pressure was coming not from the record
label, but from Courtney Love, who has tried to stop the film at every pass.
He added that Sundance ignored other actions by Love to block the film screening,
including threats to sue over the film’s description in the event film guide.
Broomfield feels that these various attempts are “an extension of what the film
is essentially about…the heart of the film lies in the central issue of
control… the way first amendment rights and freedom of expression have become
controlled and limited.” Love’s behavior, stated Broomfield, is typical towards
anyone trying to report Cobain’s life, death, and his relationship with Love.
“At least I wasn’t beaten or threatened”, he said without further elaboration.
According to Broomfield, Love hasn’t seen the film.
Broomfield still hopes to sell the film at Sundance and has offerered to make
the required cuts to insure a screening. Additionally, he says the film will
air on the BBC within the year. When asked if he’d consider premiering the
film at Slamdance, he replied, “I really haven’t had a chance to think about
it,” though other festival programmers outside of Park City have told indieWIRE
they’d be very interested in screening the film.