A French court Wednesday threw out a request by producer Paulo Branco to stop the Cannes Film Festival from screening Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” clearing the way for the festival to press ahead with its closing-night plans.
However, the court in Paris said the May 19 showing of the film must be preceded by a statement saying that the exceptional screening does not prejudice Branco’s claim to the rights to “Don Quixote” or the ongoing legal proceedings surrounding the film. In addition, the court ruled that Gilliam, Star Invest Films France, and sales agent Kinology must each pay Branco €1,500 ($1,800) to help defray his legal expenses.
Granting Branco’s request for an injunction against the screening in Cannes would have forced the festival to pick another title for its prestigious closing-night slot just 10 days before the event.
Branco and his Alfama Films allege that he was wrongly cut out as a producer on “Don Quixote,” in breach of an agreement he and Gilliam signed in 2016 that awarded Branco rights to the film. Branco called Wednesday’s ruling “a wise decision,” adding: “I am not angry…. Commercial exploitation [of the film] cannot go ahead until the dispute is settled.”
However, the judge in Wednesday’s decision said he had no power to rule on the question of the film’s distribution in France.
Cannes’ organizers had said last month that they were aware of the legal proceedings, but that they decided to go ahead with “Don Quixote” anyway, defending Gilliam and dismissing Branco as a self-important troublemaker.
“The Festival de Cannes will respect the legal decision, whatever it may be, but we strongly affirm that we stand squarely on the side of filmmakers and in particular on the side of Terry Gilliam,” the festival said April 30. “We know how important this project, which has gone through so many trials and tribulations, is to him. The trouble [was] caused on this last occasion by the actions of a producer who has shown his true colors once and for all during this episode and who has threatened us, via his lawyer, with a ‘humiliating defeat.’”
But Branco shot back, declaring that “the Cannes Film Festival is not above the law, and the virulence and aggressiveness of [its] tone will not change anything.” On Wednesday, he said it was now up to Cannes whether to proceed with the closing-night screening in compliance with the court decision.
After Branco and Gilliam signed their agreement in 2016, funding for the film failed to come through, which sent Gilliam in search of new backers. That was just one of a litany of problems that have bedeviled “Don Quixote” since Gilliam conceived of the project 20 years ago. He has had to halt or abandon production several times because of on-set accidents and financial woes.
Bringing the completed film to Cannes at last and landing the closing-night position is Gilliam’s long-awaited reward. But the difficulties have kept coming: Gilliam reportedly suffered a mini-stroke over the weekend, potentially putting his appearance on the Croisette in doubt, and Amazon has just pulled out of distributing the film in the U.S.
Henry Chu contributed to this report.