(now how about an apology from Serge Losique for making such an idiotic decision in the first place)

Festival pulls Homolka film

Thursday, August 4, 2005

MONTREAL — Bowing to sponsors such as Air Canada, the Montreal World Film Festival has dropped plans to play host to the premiere of the Hollywood movie about sex killers Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo.

“Half a dozen sponsors were going to pull their money,” said a source who had spoken to festival president Serge Losique.

In a statement released yesterday, organizers cited “the discomfort expressed by clients of its sponsors” as a reason for dropping the film Karla.

As late as four days ago, an Air Canada executive was stating bluntly that the carrier was going to cancel its support.

Duncan Dee, a senior vice-president at Air Canada, was answering a query from Marsha Boulton, the wife of Stephen Williams, author of two books about the Homolka-Bernardo case.
“Air Canada informed the [Montreal World Film Festival] last week that it is cancelling its sponsorship of the event as a result of the festival’s decision to screen Karla,” Mr. Dee e-mailed Ms. Boulton on July 31.

A copy of the e-mail was made public by Mr. Williams yesterday.

By yesterday, an Air Canada official was saying that the company was looking forward to seeing the festival’s eventual lineup.

“We are taking steps to dissociate ourselves from the screening of this movie,” spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said. “We’ll see what will be in the [final] program.”

Mr. Losique didn’t answer when The Globe and Mail called, just hours before the announcement, to ask about the prospect of losing sponsors.

He is expected to unveil the final lineup next Tuesday.

Yesterday, his decision shocked some who saw it as a setback for artistic freedoms.

“I was hoping the people lobbying against the movie would see the folly of their way. This is a very dangerous precedent for the film business,” said Peter Simpson, CEO of Norstar Filmed Entertainment Inc., the middleman who put Mr. Losique in touch with the producers of Karla.
“This is appalling. It’s outrageous,” Mr. Williams said. “[Mr. Losique] went out on a limb and announced this with fanfare but he doesn’t have the courage of his convictions.”

It was good news, however, for Tim Danson, lawyer for the families of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, the Ontario schoolgirls raped, tortured and murdered by Ms. Homolka and Mr. Bernardo.

“It’s nice to see in this day and age that, even in the movie industry, prudence, good judgment and common sense prevail,” he said.

“This is the way free speech is supposed to work. Nobody had to legislate. Nobody had to pass a law. It’s public opinion coming to bear.”

Other sponsors contacted yesterday, such as Visa and Kodak, said they had supported the festival’s right to pick its content.

The festival runs from Aug. 26 to Sept. 5.


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