UPDATE (June 26): Producers have withdrawn from the project, noting “there will be no room for the film.”
MK2 Films (“Maria By Callas,” “Portrait of A Lady On Fire”) has pulled out of “Louis Armstrong: The Cause of Happiness,” after the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation said they were not collaborators on the project, as previously indicated.
Following the Louis Armstrong Foundation’s complaint and MK2’s decision to pull out of the documentary, the producers at Elephant released a statement on June 26 to say they were abandoning the project altogether.
MK2 Films announced on June 23 during the virtual Cannes market that it was handling international sales on the film. The documentary feature, produced by Fanny Glissant (“Slavery Routes”) and Gaël Leiblang (“Maria By Callas”), was presented as an event documentary made with the backing of the Louis Armstrong Foundation to mark the 50th anniversary of Armstrong’s death.
However, the New York-based org has now come forward stating they were not, in fact, involved in “Louis Armstrong: The Cause of Happiness,” and already have an exclusive partnership in place with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Documentaries, which is working on another film about the American singer and trumpeter.
In a statement sent to Variety on June 24, the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation said it has “absolutely no partnership or ‘collaboration’ in place with the producers, MK2 Films, and has not granted the producers access to Louis Armstrong’s personal archives (including his personal audio recordings about his life and time), which are under the Foundation’s direct legal control.
“Furthermore, and as previously announced six months ago, The Foundation has partnered with and is actively cooperating with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Documentaries to produce the definitive documentary on [Armstrong’s] life which is due to be released in late 2021,” reads a statement from the org.
MK2 Films has now said it is exiting the project on the back of the org’s claims.
“Following our exchanges with [production company] Elephant, the decision was taken from MK2 Films to withdraw from the feature documentary ‘Louis Armstrong: The Cause of Happiness’ for the time being and to immediately cease all pre-sales of the film at the present Cannes Virtual Market and in the future,” said MK2 Films in a statement shared with Variety.
The producers at Elephant, meanwhile, said they “regret the reactions aroused by the announcement of our project of feature Documentary about Louis
“On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his death, we wished to honor the memory of this exceptional artist with a European film, both ambitious and intimate.“
Elephant said that “since 2019 it had started working with intermediaries responsible for making contact with the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation and the Louis Armstrong House Museum to present them our project and discuss rights
“At no time were we informed about an incompatibility between our film and recently signed agreements between the Foundation and Imagine Documentaries. We now understand that there will be no room for the film we wanted to produce and accordingly withdraw project.“
“Louis Armstrong: The Cause of Happiness,” which was in pre-production, was supposed to be directed by Thibaut de Longeville (“Just for Kicks,” “The Art of Blending”), and was co-written with Emmanuel Parent (“Great Black Music”).