Legal issues mire 'Heart of Fire'

A growing legal storm is threatening to discredit Luigi Falorni’s child soldier drama “Heart of Fire” a week before its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.

Pic, along with author Senait Mehari, is facing a legal assault over her autobiography.

Mehari’s book recounts her early life in Eritrea in East Africa and being forced to serve as a child soldier. A number of her alleged fellow soldiers have filed defamation lawsuits against the writer, who went on to forge a successful career as a singer in Germany following the international success of her book.

Judging in favor of one of Mehari’s former schoolmates, a Berlin court has ordered the writer to pay E9,000 ($13,359) in damages for defamation. Lawyers for Mehari have appealed.

An attorney for the plaintiffs has said Falorni’s film is under review and warned that its producers may also face legal action.

Such a move could prove embarrassing for the Berlinale, which prides itself for its politically charged film lineups, as well as for Falorni, who won an Oscar nomination for his 2004 Mongolian doc “The Story of the Weeping Camel.”

Christoph Mueller, head of Senator Film Prod., which co-produced “Heart of Fire,” has said the film is “neither a documentary nor a one-to-one adaptation of the book,” but rather a cinematic narrative loosely based on Mehari’s tome. Mueller added that Senator had researched the historical facts in the screenplay and found them to be accurate.

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