Documentary banned at Sundance Film Festival will premiere at Roxie Friday
By Sarah Allen
Nick Bloomfield was among the most sought-after filmmakers at January's Sundace Film Festival in Park City, Utah. It wasn't because festival attendees had seen Broomfield's new documentary, "Kurt and Courtney." But it was because they weren't allowed to see it.
Festival-goers knew only two things about the picture. They knew it examined the lives and the tragic love of the late Kurt Cobain and his wife, actress/singer Courtney Love. And they knew it had been dropped form the festival's screening schedule. Broomfield had something almost as good as a great film -- notoriety.
Days before the film was to have its world premiere, festival officials caved in to pressure from Love's lawyers, who claimed Broomfield failed to obtain permission to use songs performed by Nirvana, Cobain's band, on the movie's soundtrack, according to news reports from Park City. Broomfield, however, says he believes Love was more upset about the unflattering way she is presented in the movie.
"Kurt and Courtney," Broomfield said during a visit to San Francisco this week, "becanme much more than a story about censorship in this arena, and about jounalistic freedom" than about Love and Cobain's relationship.
"Love is interesting to me in this instance," he said, "because she's someone who is quite controlling, especially in the entertainment business."
While the film's cancellation at Sundance drew national attention, the threat of legal action scared away many potential distributors. But San Francisco's Rox Cinema, an independent move house, is undaunted and will give the film its world premiere on Friday.
"We think it will work at the Roxie as opposed to not working elsewhere," said Elliot Levine, film programmer at the Roxie. While big movie chains might be reluctant to show the film because of potential legal problems, Lvine said, "we perceive this to be a hassle-free engagement. A corporate chain will probably be nervous about it, but they probably won't be nervous after they see that we have a successful run."
Love has not sued to stop the Roxie screenings, perhaps because she has no reason to. Broomfield has extracted the music at issue. But Love has made it clear to distributors that she will use her formidable connections with movie studios, record companies, and television networks against them should they carry the film, according to Broomfield.
"We feel we don't have anything to worry about," Levine continued. "It's possible that she'll spill things on us at the last second. But we haven't heard from her or her lawyers and neither has Nick ... If a raucous [situation] is created around this, it's not going to be based on anything that can be held up in court. It's an emotional issue, not a legal issue. She's clearly someone who is really determined to get her way."
Broomfield said he has been hitting brick walls since he started filming, "Kurt and Courtney."
The cable network Showtime "was very keen on putting money into the film but then one of Courtney's lawyers called Showtime," said Broomfield, who other films include "Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam" and "Fetishes." MTV was frightened, he said, because it's the sister company of Showtime (Both networks are owned by Viacom Inc.). If Showtime cooperated with the maker of "Kurt and Courtney," Broomfield noted, MTV might lose the right to work with Love's band Hole or might be prevented from airing videos and music by Nirvana.
The film also explores theories that Love played a part in Cobain's death in 1994, which was officially fulred a suicide by Seattle police. An electrician making a house call discovered Cobain's body, with a shotgun wound to the head, in the greenhouse above the garage at his home in Seattle. Love's own, estranged father, Hank Harrison, has hinted that his daughter may have been involved in her husband's demise. But in Broomfield's film, Harrison's credibility is undermined by his tendency to contradict himself.
The film gives footage to others who say Love was party to Cobain's death.
There's Tom Grant, a private detective Love found in the Yellow Pages and hired to investigate possible muder attempts on Cobain six months before the musician was found dead. In an interview in the movie, Grant says he is convinced Love arranged for Cobain's murder. Broomfield made it clear in his interview, hoever, that he believes Grant's evidence is insufficient.
"I don't think his central piece of evidence holds up," says Broomfield. Grant claims Cobain was too doped up on heroin to pull the trigger. "There are a lot of inconsistencies and strange things" in Grant's reconstruction of the events leading up to Cobain's death, the filmmaker says. "His working for Courtney is perhaps the strangest thing."
There's also El Duce, a husky rocker who in the movie claims Love "offered me 50 grand to whack Kurt Cobain."
"I was convinced by El Duce," Broomfield says, noting that El Duce alleged he knew who did kill Cobain but he wanted $50,000 in exchange for the information.
Harrison, who espoused his theory in the book "Who Killed Kurt Cobain?" is shwon in the movie chuckling about how he used to discipline Love with pit bulls, and chatting eagerly about his daughter's motives for killing Cobain.
"For a parent to be so unsupportive is very alarming," Broomfield says. "He has more than encouraged Courtney to have whatever faults she has. Maybe elements of her being his claim to fame are mixed in there."
According to Levine, Harrison will attend the fiml's premiere on Friday - to sell copies of his book.