PARIS — French doc “Etre et avoir” (To Be and to Have) is again the focus of legal wrangling with its subjects: The parents of the children who appeared in the film are suing helmer Nicolas Philibert as well as pic’s producers and distributors.
Seven of the nine families filmed in the doc, which depicted a class of about a dozen kids in a one-room school in the Auvergne mountains, are demanding e20,000 each in the suit.
“Because the production didn’t keep a certain number of its promises and used our images and those of our children without our accord, it is our obligation to bring such an action,” the families said in a press release.
The parents also contend the film went out of the bounds of a documentary into fiction in certain scenes, such as one where a little girl gets lost on a school outing.
The defendants deny the charge, which comes after the teacher of the class, who also appears in the film, filed two separate lawsuits in October against the filmmakers.
“The film is a documentary on the town, on the children and on their families. It was filmed as a documentary and received as a documentary,” Roland Rappaport, Philibert’s lawyer, told Variety. “There was never any question of giving the families money. They agreed to be filmed from the outset.”
The film’s moving depiction of the relationship between teacher George Lopez and his students wooed auds in Gaul, where it sold 1.8 million tickets and picked up a handful of awards, including the prestigious Prix Louis Delluc for French film.
In April, a Montpellier appeals court dismissed a suit by Lopez, who taught the class for 20 years, asking for $26,212 compensation as pay for promoting the film and a $31,451 penalty. A decision by a Paris court on a suit brought by Lopez for infringement on his image rights is expected in June.
“If you have to start paying people for documentaries, there will be no more documentaries,” Rappaport said.