A Conversation With The US Distributors Of A SERBIAN FILM

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A Conversation With The US Distributors Of A SERBIAN FILM
[Our thanks to Dan Tabor for the following interview.]

A few weeks ago there was a free screening of A Serbian Film in Philadelphia at the Prince Theater of the uncut festival print of the film being held by Invincible Pictures who recently licensed the film. So living in Philadelphia and being a fan of transgressive cinema, I had to check it out, this being my second time seeing the film theatrically.

I also took some time out beforehand to chat with Thomas Ashley one of the folks who works at US distributor Invincible Pictures. I spoke with him right around the time the Spanish controversy around the film - Sitges Film Festival director Angel Sala was hit with criminal charges for screening the film - had just hit and was all over the internet.

The conversation turned into an interesting look at licensing a film such as A Serbian Film and the decisions they have to make to release one of the most controversial films of all time both ethically and artistically.

So how did Invincible Pictures first find out about A Serbian Film and then go about licensing it?

We were at the Cannes film festival last year and we had heard about it through the grapevine. We were there looking for acquisitions for our domestic distribution and digital system. So after hearing about it, we met with their reps over at Jinga and we went to the screening of the film and it turned out to be a pretty crazy experience.

One of our associates got so freaked out, and if you google the A Serbian Film screening at Cannes you will see someone fainted halfway through the door and broke their nose. Well, they didn't break their nose but that was someone who works for our company.  So they had to spend the whole day in the hospital, get stitches, the whole nine yards.

Besides just being so out there, I had never seen anything like it. Pushing boundaries is one thing and some say its being extreme for extreme sake; but I had never watched a movie that gave me that much of a reaction. Whether it was a good reaction or not, I was totally disgusted, but it was a reaction nonetheless.

I personally have never had a stronger reaction watching a movie than I did watching A Serbian Film.

So you weren't aware of the reputation the film had before Cannes?

I really didn't know anything, when we met with Jinga, they were like you really don't want to see that and we really thought it was part of the sales pitch at first. I was like come on, how bad could it be? I mean I have seen some crazy stuff and it can't be that bad.

But they were right. I had never seen anything like it.

So what are your plans to release the film in the United States?

We are still waiting to hear back from the MPAA what the rating is going to be we are hoping for an R but most likely it will be an NC-17. [It has since been assessed an NC-17] In which case we are going to be doing about 15-50 screens initially. Then depending on how well we do on those screens, we also might be taking it out much wider.

We will be making it available on our digital system FlixFling day and date with theatrical release. Then with Blu-ray and DVD depending on the theatrical run, if it does really well we might push the release date. But right now we are looking at about 60 days from theatrical release for home video.

That will be an edited version, correct?

The DVD and Blu-ray will be edited, but it won't be as edited as the theatrical version.

It really depends on what happens between now and then, what we end up doing. There are obviously some legal issues we have to look at. 

What is it like for a independent distributor like yourself suddenly getting all of this attention?

We have been distributing low-budget independent films for about 6 years now. Not one of our films has garnered this amount of attention. We have also stepped up our acquisitions this year and we are working with higher quality films, A Serbian Film definitely falls into that category.

And finally, are you worried of any backlash from the charges in Spain against the film?

You know there is that saying that no publicity is bad publicity, I am not worried about it. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, just like when a film is very subjective and it is up to the viewer. If you don't like this movie you really don't have to watch it. But it deserves to be seen.

It's a very well crafted film and an ingenious piece whether you agree with the subject matter is beyond the point.

I am sure we will get backlash from some advocacy group and it's going to try and boycott the film. But that is not going to stop us from putting it out. If it weren't for the possible legal repercussions, we would release the film as the filmmakers intended.  Which is the way all films should be released. I think it is a shame we find ourselves in this position that we are forced to edit someone else's work to bring it to the public.

Obviously the filmmakers didn't intend on breaking any laws and no one was put in danger while making this film, it's all fake and fictional. But if we don't edit it no one will see it.

I think it deserves to be out there and deserves to be seen.

Interview by Dan Tabor.
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More about A Serbian Film

brbro4April 18, 2011 3:57 AM

Kinda disappointed we're not getting the uncut version. I can't blame them for worrying about kiddie porn charges but I wish they had the balls to release it. I wonder if anyone is going to release the original version.

J HurtadoApril 18, 2011 8:22 AM

So far no one in the English speaking world has stepped up. Sweden has an Uncut Blu-ray, but it is only subbed for Scandinavian languages.

arturoApril 18, 2011 2:40 PM

I'm sure at some point they will be an uncut version of the film on DVD or Blu-ray with english subtitles? Grindhouse done an uncut version of Cannibal Holocaust and that contains real life animal killings and thats illegal in the U.K, although you can easily watch Apocalypse Now anywhere and that has the most famous animal killing of all..When it comes to children and how filmmakers choose to use them especialy when your making an edgy film like this, now thats a tricky thing, but no law was broken, and no children were harmed??

skinnyboy23April 18, 2011 2:53 PM

sigh, well I guess it will have to be the Torrented version then. I know that one isn't cut and has english subs.Sad day it is that you have to stoop to torrenting to get something.

SwarezApril 19, 2011 7:10 PM

Damnit. Iceland gets the subtitle shaft again. I thought we were a Scandinavian country.

JeffJune 7, 2011 5:34 AM

I actually bought a legitimate uncut copy of "A Serbian Film" although it doesn't have English Subtitles. I have seen an uncut screener copy along with the Invincible Picture UNRATED version.

SPOILERS AHEAD

I have seen the Invincible Pictures UNRATED version which is cut by 30 seconds to 1 minute and only in 2 scenes as far as I could tell.

1) The newborn scene, not the birth but actions afterwards
2) The scene where Milos and the masked man are having sex with the covered people. The reveal of one of the covered people is cut.

The 1st cut doesn't affect the movie too much but should have been left in as the the special effects were obvious. The second cut causes the Ending of the movie NOT to make sense and needs to be there.

JeffJune 7, 2011 5:36 AM

End of final sentence Should read Needs to be restored

animedude5555March 13, 2012 10:43 PM

He says it's so horifying that although it breaks no law, that most people won't watch it so to make it profitable he had to cut those scenes? Well that didn't stop the ORIGINAL film makers from making it. In fact other countries have MORE strict views on things than the US (UK, Canada, and many other countries do NOT allow underage pornographic anime known as lolicon hentai, yet at the time I'm writing this message, it's perfectly legal in the US and Japan). And as with anime it's NOT REAL, I mean the boy that's shown being raped it isn't even his body that's being raped, just his head is shown. It's fake child porn, not real child porn, so under current US law, it's legal by the same reasoning that lolicon hentai is legal (one uses fictional people altogether and is a cartoon, the other is real people but the child isn't really being raped, they show a body that really isn't the boy's and then show his head later, and the implication is the boy was raped, but I mean we all know he wasn't, or else the original film maker would have been thrown in jail). I mean come on! Be logical! If anyone's gonna wanna watch this in the first place it's BECAUSE it is so horrible, the worse the film the better it is to watch it, in their mind! So censoring it is only going to CUT DOWN the potential audience (people who like sick films) and that will make you LOSE tons of money!

Let me say this to your face you stupid film director, there is an "accessible from the US" torrent where people can download it FULLY UNCENSORED, and people have downloaded it, and will continue to download it, UNTIL YOU RELEASE THE UNCENSORED VERSION FOR SALE IN THE US!

Your studio rather than making more money buy censoring it so more people will want to watch it, is in fact LOSING money by sending all your potential customers (people who like to watch sick twisted films) to the torrent to download it, and you are MAKING NOT ONE PENNY FROM THAT TORRENT. If business sense is what's driving you as you claim, then start DOING something that actually makes sense from a business point of view!!!!!!!!!!!!!