Unauthorized screenings using bad copies hurt film

MEXICO CITY — The director of a film savaging Mexico’s ruling party has accused state-funded co-producers Imcine of sabotaging its release.

Screenings of “La Ley de Herodes” (Herod’s Law) suddenly began at two arthouse cinemas in Mexico City over the weekend without helmer Luis Estrada’s permission.

The director claimed the film was being shown out of focus, with poor copies and at different times than those announced in tiny newspaper ads.

“La Ley” has become a cause celebre in Mexico after Imcine failed to stop its only previous public screening at a French film festival in Acapulco last month.

The pic tells the story of a corrupt and violent activist in the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), who rises to the congress.

Legal battle

Estrada, who is locked in a legal battle with Imcine over the final cut, wants to offer the film to a major distributor for simultaneous release in Mexico and the U.S.

But according to the helmer, changes proposed by Imcine include relocating the film’s setting out of Mexico and cutting scenes that include the PRI’s insignia.

Imcine boss Eduardo Amerena did not return Daily Variety’s calls.

“La Ley” has attracted strong, if low-profile, interest from domestic distributors. “Commercially, it is a film with a lot of possibilities,” said Eckerhardt von Damm, director of Videocine-Warner Brothers Mexico.

“It has been like Jekyll and Hyde. The critics, the distributors and the public at Acapulco all liked the film,” said Estrada. “Unfortunately, I am having to deal with Imcine.

“What they are doing now is worse than censorship. It is deliberate and they are trying to ruin my film’s release. If they didn’t like the film, why did they agree to make it in the first place?”

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