TIFF pulls trans film The People’s Joker due to ‘rights issues’

This week, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was set to premiere a trans version of the Joker’s origin story. I know what you’re thinking: a trans Joker origin story? …Yes obviously. Why hasn’t this been done before? Unfortunately, those of us who have been waiting for such a film will have to wait even longer: TIFF has put out the village prankster, citing “rights issues”.

Independent filmmaker Vera Drew directed, co-wrote and starred in the film. Along with a trailer, he provided a synopsis on Twitter: “After years of numbing to Smylex, an unfunny clown named Joker grapples with gender identity, first love, and a fascist-caped crusader, all while founding a comedy theater. Illegal in Gotham City.

“THE TOWN JOKER, a strange origin story of the Joker coming of age.”

Amid hilarious references to Batman’s rogues gallery, the trailer defiantly casts the film as “an illegal comic book movie.” Hey Yes Warner Bros. is going to cut an entire movie that would have featured the DCEU’s first trans character in a major movie, at some point you have to take matters into your own hands.

Warner Bros. legal representation, however, did not see things that way. After only one screening, Drew received a cease and desist, and the film was delisted from TIFF.

Drew is determined to fight censorship, first campaigning for TIFF’s People’s Choice Award under the hashtag #FREETHEPEOPLESJOKER.

Despite the removal order, Drew’s take on the legal complications remains optimistic. “I think this film can be distributed 100%,” he explained in an interview with collider. “It is fully protected by fair use and copyright law. Like a parody law. The only thing that makes it weird in both categories is that no one ever took characters and IPs and really customized them like this. So I think that’s what really makes it seem so much more dangerous than I really think it is. I mean, I get it, look, I put an ‘illegal comic book movie’ on the poster, but that was just to put your butt in the seats.”

And in a recent statement to the daily beastDrew vowed never to bow down to a corporation like Warner Bros. “Everyone will get a chance to see this movie,” he said. “I don’t respond well to harassment or pressure from faceless institutions. It just emboldened me and what I was saying with this movie. We are looking for buyers and distribution partners to protect us and make this film accessible to trans people and their families everywhere.”

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