Well, that joke isn’t funny anymore. After an “angry letter” that pressured director Vera Drew to pull her controversial comedy film The People’s Joker from the Toronto Film Festival after one screening, the filmmaker took to Twitter once again to follow up with some more sad news. Whoever is curious to watch the movie – which is pretty much everyone who knows about it – will have to wait a while longer, since the title has also been pulled from all festivals it was going to be screened in the coming months. The story centers around a transgender Joker who questions their identity, relationships, and talent after opening an unsuccessful comedy club in Gotham City.
The decision is, of course, related to copyright issues due to the use of a trademarked DC character. In an interview with Collider, the director underscored that it wasn’t an issue at all, and that she went out of her way to make sure she could use the Joker – and other Batman villains – legally under fair use. Warner Bros. clearly doesn’t agree with that take. Even though the company hasn’t officially commented on the subject, Drew has heavily hinted at the fact that a “media conglomerate” is the one pulling the strings.
In the official statement, Drew commented on the carousel of emotions she’s been going through over the last few days, but revealed she is confident about the future of The People’s Joker:
“As ‘The People’s Joker’ team and I work to resolve our previously reported “rights issues” and come up with a release plan, I have decided to pull our film from all future film festivals for the time being. I didn’t come to this decision lightly. It sucks and hurts more than you’ll ever know. We had literally 10 incredible festivals all over the world ready and willing to exhibit this film. I’ve been looking forward to traveling with the movie since we started making it. It’s taken all the emotional strength and courage I have in me to recalibrate my brain into accepting that this is what is best for the future of our film and that is not where the story ends; it’s just the beginning. I promise everyone – everywhere – is going to be able to see this film soon, first in a theater and then in the comfort of their home. Stick with me. I’ll keep you posted every step of the way that I can. And you know where you can all send your angry letters… FREE ‘THE PEOPLE’S JOKER’”
The People’s Joker had already been officially confirmed overseas in the lineup of the Gaze Film Festival, in Dublin, and the Metamorphoses in Sydney. In the U.S., the movie’s poster was even featured in the trailer for this year’s Fantastic Fest, one of the events that celebrates genre filmmaking from small and big budgets. In the Gaze and Metamorphoses festivals, the movie was slated to screen again as early as October 1.
Even though the future seems bleak, it’s clear that film festivals committees are standing behind Drew – who came up with the film on a dare, and it ended up helping her get through the pandemic. The director has stated she’s been “fully transparent” about her work, and that is reflected in her confidence that the movie will make it to audiences’ screens one way or another. The only question is when that is going to happen.
Stick with Collider to get further news as this story develops. You can check out director Vera Drew’s announcement tweet below: