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his life" as it shows him taking part in bombings and torture and is reserving his right to have the film withdrawn.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.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Italian movies to dominate Venice Mostra

With 18 feature films being show, the Venice Film Festival will have a clear Italian tone to it this year. The 65th festival will be unlike any other, as it is going through a deep re-think of where it is in the festival circuit. The Rome festival is pulling some of the glamour later in the year, for example, which means producers and distributors often have to choose between the two. Venice also competes with Toronto and Cannes.

The Italian focus is also due to a lower number of American films, as the effects of less production due to the writers' strike are felt. Italian films in competition include Italian-Turkish director Ferzan Ozpetek's "Un Giorno Perfetto," featuring the events of one day on a group of people, and Pupi Avati with "Il Papa' di Giovanna," the story of a father dealing with his daughter's horrible crime.

Italian cinema has a low profile for the moment. This is not helped by political changes amongst the bodies that promote it - plus the fact that the news sites are no longer translated into English or French.

Interesting sites such as Cinecitta News are now monolingual. One of the most bizarre sites is Cinecitta's page about the festival, which details the architecture of the Spazio Italia it is hosting there but doesn't mention any films. This reflects the in-fighting going on inside the institutions at the expense of effective promotion.

If Venice sounds too exotic and far away for scriptwriters or directors, think again. I attended it a few years ago, flying low-cost and staying in a 'pensione' (very basic accommodation). For lunch, I chose to eat in working mens' canteens that were both tasty and cheap. At night, I ate in the self-service canteens at the festival. The only problem is finding tickets to the actual screenings. But there are plenty of opportunities to network anyway. Plus, Venice is truly one of the most magnificent towns on the planet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Doctor Who" scripts picks up Hugo award

"Blink", an episode of the rejuvenated BBC series "Doctor Who", received a Hugo Award on August 9 last, in the section for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form (in this case a TV episode). The Hugo Awards are awards for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy. They were first awarded in 1953, and then every year since 1955. The awards are run by and voted on by fans and are billed as the "biggest award in fandom". They are awarded each year at the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon).

"Blink" was written by Steven Moffat and directed by Hettie MacDonald. Moffat has written extensively for TV, including "Coupling", "Doctor Who" and "Jekyll". Moffat won this category for the past two years - with "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" and "The Girl in the Fireplace". He is currently working on an adaptation of the Belgian comic strip hero "Tintin".

"Blink" is in the third series of "Doctor Who".