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Estonian Magnus, on show in Warsaw, is stopped elsewhere by court injunction

Jorn Rossing Jensen 2007-10-20

Warsaw (CentEast Daily News) -- Estonian director Kadri Kousaar's feature debut, Magnus, which was launched in Un Certain Regard, is part of the Estonian Explosion at the Warsaw International Film Festival and the CentEast Market, but that is about as far as it goes.

After a county court in Tallinn enjoined Kousaar in March from publicly showing the film, the plaintiffs tried to implement the injunction in other countries where screenings of Magnus were scheduled.

"In Cannes a representative turned up a quarter of an hour before the film was programmed, and demanded it be cancelled," explained the film's UK producer, Donal Fernandes of Donus Films. "However, the festival decided to go ahead."

Scripted by Kousaar, Magnus is the story of a sensitive young boy with a death wish, played by local pop star Kristjan Kasearu. Twice he attempts suicide. His father tries to persuade him to go on living, but in the end he bids farewell to him.

"The film is all fiction, but in the script there is a point of reference to a real-life event," said Fernandes. "An ‘acquaintance of the prototype' took the director to court for breach of privacy, and the court's injunction on Kousaar showing the film in Estonia was later extended to the entire world."

Since 2004 a civil court order in any EU member state can be enforced in all other EU countries. As a consequence, the international sales agent which had already picked up Magnus for international distribution pulled out of the deal.

"Nobody sued my company as the producer of the film," Fernandes said. "Still, while generally you are considered innocent until proven guilty, it has already been both convicted and punished. Most of the production and legal costs are obviously lost, due to the apparent abuse of a court order not even directed at the company or me.

"One of the legal problems is that the boundaries of privacy still appear to be undefined in the new Estonia. Therefore it could take years before the case is resolved, and even if the complaint is overruled, maximum liability of an unsuccessful plaintiff is severely limited," he concluded.

After Cannes, Magnus went to Finland's Midnight Sun Film Festival and to Russia's Kino Shock Festival in Anapa. Both organisers were contacted and apparently told that the film should not be screened. However, it has also been selected for other international showcases.

Fernandes took a year off to produce Magnus, while working on his own feature debut. Now he is focusing on Anxious Dave, which he wrote, directed and produced. Currently in post, the film about a young man trying to escape a humdrum life will be ready for Cannes.

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