Festival pulls plug on film in row with rock star

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The Independent Online
The premiere of a controversial film on the lives of rock couple Courtney Love and her late husband Kurt Cobain has been cancelled following legal pressure. Tim Cornwell in Los Angeles reports.

Kurt and Courtney by award-winning British film-maker Nick Broomfield was to have been one of the highlights of this year's prestigious Sundance Film Festival in Utah. But two days before its first scheduled public screening, organisers have bowed to pressure from Love and her record label and decided to pull the plug.

The festival, founded by actor Robert Redford, has become the leading US showcase for independent films, and Love threatened a lawsuit on the grounds that it contained copyrighted music performed by her own band, Hole, and Cobain's Nirvana, Associated Press reported.

Broomfield, by contrast, claimed he had full legal clearance to use what he said were excerpts from the BBC's Top of the Pops.

The film-maker has built his reputation on tracking down, camera in hand, major and minor celebrities from Margaret Thatcher to Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, probing their lives and their associates. It is not the first time his subjects, including actress Lily Tomlin and AWB Afrikaner party leader Terre Blanche, have turned prickly.

In dealing with Love, however, he has encountered a rock music star and Hollywood persona with formidable clout, at the crest of her career. The film, he said, contained only a brief encounter with Love, when he buttonholed her on camera as she presented a free speech award at the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Sundance Festival has prided itself on its independent spirit, operating outside the big-time Hollywood studio system. But organisers cited an ongoing legal matter to justify unceremoniously dropping the film one day before the festival was due to start.

"We have been informed that there are a number of unresolved legal matters between the film-makers and others - including uncleared music rights - which make it impossible for us to present the film," a spokesman said in a prepared statement.

"We hope that Nick [Broomfield] can resolve these matters and that his film will receive the exhibition it merits."

Cobain, at age 27, one of the pre-eminent figures of the 90s rock music scene, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in April 1994. He had recently checked out of a drug and alcohol abuse clinic.

Though devastated by his death, Love went on to build up her own highly successful rock career. Last year, she received plaudits for her screen performance as the tragic, drugged up wife of a US porn king, starring opposite Woody Harrelson in The People vs Larry Flynt.

More than 100 films will be shown at this year's Sundance festival - an event for which much of Hollywood decamps, en masse, to the mountains above Salt Lake City for 10 days of skiing and networking.

Responding to the decision not to show his film, Broomfield said: "I think its extremely sad that this festival, which is supposed to represent free speech and freedom of expression, should be behaving this way."