Joker: a film about Batman’s enemy banned from release?

“The People’s Joker,” a slightly different film about the iconic Batman villain, recently celebrated its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. However, he is already deprived of other screenings for legal reasons…

Vera Drew

In The People’s Joker, transgender filmmaker Vera Drew tells a fictionalized, DC-set version of her own story.

During the feature film, we thus get to know the cult character as a beaten boy who does not feel comfortable in his body. Later, Joker, struggling with his sexual identity, tries to start a career as a comedian in the city of Gotham where Batman has criminalized almost all public comedy. The budding clown must then face the caped fascist…

The film is not only a low-budget coming-of-age film but also a parody of the Batman universe with many references to previous Joker appearances and including other DC anecdotes.

Already in the trailer, Jared Leto and Joaquin Phoenix’s interpretations of the Joker are targeted. It also says, in black and white, that neither DC Comics nor its parent company Warner Bros. Discovery have authorized the work.

Nonetheless, The People’s Joker celebrated its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) currently taking place in Canada. Although three other screenings were planned there, only one has taken place so far. Indeed, as American press reviews report, Vera Drew and her team pulled the film from the festival due to rights issues.

Details on the background to this decision are not yet available. Suspicions are of course on an intervention of DC Comics and Warner Bros. due to unauthorized use of their property. So far, no comments on the project have been given by the companies in question.

A LEGAL WORK OR NOT?

But then, how did the film see the light of day and even be screened at a festival? In her project, Vera Drew relies, among other things, on the doctrine of “fair use” applicable in the United States, which stipulates that material protected by copyright can be used in a certain context for the purposes of criticism, commentary, reporting, education or science.

This doctrine also includes parodies, for example, which must be very closely related to the original or they will be considered illegal satire. Vera Drew also points out, that apart from some footage containing licensed archival material, her feature film is entirely made up of her own recordings and animations and that the use of copyrighted names and trademarks has only been made in a autobiographical context.

Note that scenes from Joker (2019) with Joaquin Phoenix, which had been used in a previous edit, were deleted before the premiere.

THE DIRECTOR EXPECTED PROBLEMS

However, in the case of projects such as The People’s Joker, the question of whether they actually meet fair use requirements still arises, causing works of the genre to come under intense scrutiny.

So, ahead of the film’s world premiere, Vera Drew hinted that there might be issues with her film with a somewhat cryptic tweet:

I have no idea what’s going on today and my team wants me to say nothing of course so I’ll keep it vague… But whatever happens in the next few hours I want you to know… If you have been waiting and wanting to watch our movie, you will soon be able to do so. Stay tuned and stay with me. Need your help.

It remains to be seen whether The People’s Joker will see the light of day again in its original form or perhaps adapted… or not at all! To be continued.

In the meantime, it’s already sure that DC’s flagship villain will make a return in the sequel to Todd Phillips’ global hit Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix. Entitled Joker: Folie À Deux, this sequel, which will also star Lady Gaga, will be presented as a musical and is set to hit theaters on October 2, 2024. Check out its first teaser below:

Joker: a film about Batman’s enemy banned from release?