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‘Penguins’ marches toward court

Director of photography claims director credit

PARIS — “March of the Penguins” is at the center of a legal dispute between the producers and the director of photography, who wants a director’s credit on the film.

French production company Bonne Pioche confirmed Monday that Laurent Chalet has filed a lawsuit asserting authorship of the film alongside credited helmer Luc Jacquet.

Chalet shot much of the film with a second d.p., Jerome Maison, during a 13-month stint in the Antarctic.

Producer Yves Darondeau said Monday that lawyers for both sides were still discussing a settlement, but a director’s credit was something the producers did not want to negotiate.

After an initial hearing held Dec. 6, the Paris high court will examine the case Feb. 7.

“As director of photography, Laurent Chalet did a very good job in difficult conditions, but that doesn’t qualify him for a director’s credit,” Darondeau said Monday. “The director has the idea, the point of view, tells a story and has the final cut. It is a very different job.”

Maison had not asked for similar treatment, Darondeau said. Maison is working on Jacquet’s follow-up, “The Child and the Fox,” about a girl who tames a fox.

“Unfortunately, when a French film does well, there are practically always lawsuits like this,” Darondeau added. “It’s become a fashion.”

Pic earned $122.6 million worldwide, of which $78 million came from the U.S. box office after the docu was retooled for an American audience and released by Warner Independent.

French hits in court in the past two years include “Les Choristes” and helmer Nicolas Philibert’s schoolroom docu “To Be and to Have.”

Lawyers for a 14-year-old girl who sang on the soundtrack of “Les Choristes” threatened to sue producer Galatee Films for a share of its profits.

Meanwhile, teacher Georges Lopez failed to persuade a Paris court that he held the “copyright” of the teaching methods shown in “To Be and to Have.”