Mexican censorship fuels French fest furor

Pic premiered to an overflowing house

ACAPULCO — An apparent bid to censor a pic ridiculing the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) during the fourth French Film Festival here has backfired.

“La ley de Herodes” premiered to an overflowing house of more than 1,000 on Friday, 24 hours after it was suddenly dropped from the festival sked due to “technical problems.” Despite the official explanation, insiders told Daily Variety of government pressure on state-funded producers Imcine to pull the pic.

French outrage at the strong-arm treatment of Luis Estrada’s film and the presence of the international media appeared crucial in the decision to reinstate the screening on Friday.

Talk of the town

The furor garnered massive publicity for “La Ley,” which is struggling to find a Mexican distributor, and made it the talk of the festival.

Set in provincial 1940s Mexico, the lively satire follows a local politico whose corruption and violence see him rise to the Congress — an ending less palatable, officially, than a draft version in which the protagonist winds up in jail.

Thesp Damian Alcazar received a standing ovation when he plead with the audience at the main festival screening room to defend the film shortly after its withdrawal was announced Thursday.

Daniel Toscan du Plantier, prexy of festival organizers Unifrance, told Daily Variety that the French delegates had been “shocked and concerned” by the pic’s sudden disappearance.

Exactly what happened remains unknown, although there was a last-minute legal battle between Imcine and Estrada over the unauthorized change of ending.

Categorically denying allegations of government interference, Placido Perez Cue, spokesman of the education ministry’s Art and Culture Commission, Conaculta, told Daily Variety, “We could not support any type of repression.”