Trans filmmaker's Joker parody pulled from international festival lineup

Trans filmmaker Vera Drew is pleading with fans to vote for her film to win TIFF’s People’s Choice Award to show support for her parody film.

an image of the main character in The People's Joker. The person is dressed exactly like the Joker, the famous Batman villain.
Image: via twitter @veradrew22

A Transgender version of the popular Joker film titled The People’s Joker has been pulled from the Toronto International Film Festival lineup after Warner Brothers Studios reportedly issued a cease and desist order.

The crowd-funded film was written by Trans filmmaker Vera Drew who also directs and stars in the feature. 

In The People’s Joker, Drew re-imagines the infamous villain as a Transgender comedian struggling to find her voice in an oppressive society.

The film’s synopsis goes as follows: “After years of numbing herself with Smylex, an unfunny clown named Joker grapples with gender identity, first love, and a fascist caped crusader all while founding an illegal comedy theatre in Gotham City.”

Speaking about the film ahead of its premiere, Vera Drew declared that “If these are our modern myths, and if the purpose of myth is to learn about the human experience and grow and also chart your progress—the hero’s journey and all that stuff—let’s actually do that earnestly with these characters.” 

The feature itself is unauthorised by Warner Brothers and DC Comics, something that the filmmaker is completely aware of and acknowledges in an opening title card. 

Drew declared that the characters are used under the US fair doctrine, which serves to protect the use of copyrighted materials for certain purposes. The Supreme Court established that parody is protected under the First Amendment in 1988.

Despite this, Warner Brothers reportedly still issued a cease and desist order after the first screening of the film at the festival. 

The film festival later released a statement saying, “The filmmaker has withdrawn this film due to rights issues. We apologise for any inconvenience.”

Drew later took to Twitter saying “I have no clue how today goes and my team wants me to say nothing of course so I’ll stay vague…but whatever happens in the next few hours, I want you to know…if you’ve been waiting and aching to watch our movie, ur going to get to soon. Stay tuned and stay with me. Need ur help.”

She is now pleading with fans to vote for The People’s Joker to win TIFF’s People’s Choice Award “We’re the only film with ‘people’s in the title, so it’s only fair,”.

Fans have also taken to Twitter to express their support with #FREETHEPEOPLESJOKER trending as a result.

One user stated that “THE PEOPLE’S JOKER being pulled from TIFF is more than just a copyright issue. Trans rights, capitalism, and community. The weight of over 100 artists and one proven filmmaker @VeraDrew22 telling her story via parody of a beloved IP. You should be flattered, WB! #FREETHEPEOPLESJOKER”

Another user also weighed in on the situation and said “Saw @VeraDrew22 ’s illegal Joker movie trending earlier. 💖 we must continue to talk about it until The People’s Joker is playing in every major city in the world. Stop silencing trans women @warnerbros! #FREETHEPEOPLESJOKER”

The People’s Joker is still scheduled to screen at GAZE International LGBTQ+ Film Festival 2022 in Dublin.

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