Spanish court bans ‘A Serbian Film’

Thriller's combo of sex, violence attracts controversy

Eastern European thriller “A Serbian Film” has been banned from public screenings in Spain following a provisional injunction by a court in San Sebastian.

The injunction was served to San Sebastian’s Fantasy and Terror Film Week on Thursday, four hours before “A Serbian Film” was due to screen at the festival, forcing Film Week director Jose Luis Rebordinos to pull the film from the program.

Two more festivals in Spain — in Molins de Rei and Malaga — have followed suit.

The sex- and violence-packed pic, which London-based Jinga Films is shopping to buyers at AFM, played at October’s Sitges Fantasy Fest, stirring a wide range of reactions.

One was a request by Spain’s Catholic Confederation of Family and Student Parents (Concapa) for the film to be

yanked from San Sebastian’s Terror Week — a petition that appears to have prompted the temporary injunction.

Concapa argued the film offended human dignity and the underage.

Pic, the first feature from Srdan Spasojevic, follows the story of a retired porn star who is struggling to provide for his family and agrees to participate in an “art film,” only to discover that it’s a graphic snuff film that depicts child rape and scenes of necrophilia.

While the current ban is temporary — the San Sebastian court still has to rule on a definitive prohibition — the film ran into similar hurdles in the U.K. In August, the pic was pulled from FrightFest and British Horror Film Festival in Bournemouth. It was eventually submitted to the British Board of Film Classification, which ruled that 49 cuts to the film were required — reducing its running time by 4 1/2 minutes — in order for it to garner an 18 certification (the equivalent to an R rating Stateside).

Brit distrib Revolver Entertainment picked up the film for the U.K. and is releasing it theatrically in December.

Jinga Films head of production Julian Richards said the injunction in Spain is not affecting sales at AFM. But he also acknowledged the potential for such reaction beginning with the film’s world preem at the South by Southwest fest earlier this year, even as he underscored the film’s intent.

“It’s an extremely difficult film because of how it combines sex and violence,” said Richards. “But it’s not exploitation — it’s arthouse and a metaphor for the political and social situation in Serbia. We took it on because of the attention it gets, and we’re willing to take a chance for ancillary benefits.”

Following the pic’s screening at Cannes this year, Invincible snapped up domestic rights, and the film has sold to Accent in Oz and anonymous buyers in Germany and Italy. The sales outfit is currently in negotiations with buyers for Benelux, France and Scandinavia.