Beating the ‘Bunny’ rap

'Batalla' generates hardcore buzz

It’s being called the “Mexican Brown Bunny” — by people who haven’t seen it. It’s creating buzz among hardcore film buffs who are talking up its audacity three days before its Sunday competition screening. And it has been the subject of a standoff between its producers and Mexican film authorities.

But, whether Carlos Reygadas’ “Batalla en el Cielo” (“Battle in Heaven”) merits any of these reactions remains to be seen.

Reygadas said the film is far more than just explicit sex and wishes that the industry brouhaha would be over.

“It is true that it begins with a singularly shot fellatio. But it’s not only that. It begins with a face of a man, then with a man and a woman,” Reygadas said. “But the fellatio scene takes all of 30 seconds in the three-minute scene.

“There is a lot of sex in my film just as there is in life,” he said. Ultimately the sex scenes aim to communicate “some kind of faith, a sense of the mystery of life,” he said.

Despite his previous pic “Japon” bringing home Cannes’ Golden Camera Special Jury Mention and selling to a raft of territories in 2002, Reygadas said he was refused funding for “Batalla” four times by Mexican film institute, Imcine. Only after “Batalla” was invited to Cannes did Imcine come forward with some coin, and, still it paid less than half of the coin normally granted to Mexican films, according to Reygadas.

In stark contrast, international support has been far from reluctant. Tartan snapped up U.K. rights before the start of Cannes and is in advanced talks to secure U.S. rights from international sales company/French co-producer the Coproduction Office.

Belgium’s Lumiere, France’s Bac Films and the Netherlands’ Film Museum picked up rights in their respective territories. Meanwhile, top Mexican indie Gussi Films, showed its continued support by picking up Mexican rights. Gussi previously released “Japon” in Mexico.

Reygadas is bracing himself for another potential flashpoint at home. Lead actress Anapola Mushkadiz, who delivers the opening scene, is the daughter of a prominent family in Mexico. “She had the full support of her family,” he said. Reygadas refused to reveal whether the sex was simulated or not.

He hopes potential polemics may dissipate on Sunday. Until then, left-field film supporters are preparing the film’s defense.