Wednesday, August 27, 2008
IRA flick in life rights issue
An interesting case for writers is about to hit the screen. "50 Dead Men Walking" is based on the autobiography of Martin McGartland, an RUC mole that infiltrated the IRA during Northern Ireland's "troubles" in the eighties. Yet McGartland recently claimed that his portrayal "misrepresents his life" as it shows him taking part in bombings and torture and is reserving his right to have the film withdrawn.
Of particular note is the fact that he told the magazine Screen International, "I definitely have a case in terms of infringement of my moral rights not only in the UK but all around the world. If my solicitor tells me it damages my reputation I will seek an injunction to see that the film is pulled and the DVD doesn’t seen the light of day."
The producers recently said of the film that "although inspired by the contents [of the book], it is not a representation of Mr McGartland's life". It is worth noting that they acquired the rights to the book and that McGartland was also given the option of having the main character's name changed, which he apparently declined. Not having read the agreement between him and the producers HandMade Films/Future Films, it is impossible to come to an opinion about this issue. But it does show the complexity of portraying real people on the screen, and the need to nail down any legal issues before production. By the same token, it shows the danger of undertaking a writing project without some sort of agreement with the subject of a biography and/or its authors.
"50 Dead Men Walking" was written and directed by Kari Skogland and will premiere at the Toronto International Film festival on September 10.