Email to Toronto Film Festival

Nicolas DaviesToronto Film FestivalProgrammer: 'Dialogues: Talking with Pictures' Re: Ghosts… of the Civil Dead

Dear Nicolas,

I act on behalf of the two Australian registered companies that hold all relevant rights in the above-mentioned feature film. (A controlling interest in Correctional Services Inc - the Production Company; and outright ownership of Outlaw Values Marketing - worldwide marketing and exploitation rights. Evidence thereof can be faxed to you to clarify this point if required)..

I have tried to ascertain your details and contact you for some ten days now without success. I must assure you, I would've much preferred to have this (any) conversation several months ago, when it counted and when its outcome was not bound to inconvenience/ upset a lot of people. Alas, that was not to be.

It is with a heavy heart that I now feel forced to write to you and state that permission to screen Ghosts of the Civil Dead at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival IS NOT GRANTED.

The reasons to deny the screening (which normally would be a wonderful and very welcome opportunity) are to do with the way in which it has been chosen to present the film - as a fluffy sales adjunct to another film entirely. (It's also proposed to be screened via a dub from a vastly technically inferior and flawed digital transfer).

Ghosts is a very political film that genuinely contests the prevailing received dogma, looks to reveal obscured crucial aspects of the structure of our society. This is rare and should be treated therefore, like precious gold.

Further, the film was made on the precipice of a law and order avalanche - a riot of prison construction and incarceration worldwide. In the U.S. (the 'inspiration' for the film) this saw in the 20 years since 1981, a 900% increase in Department of Justice budget and a 350% increase in incarceration rates (with 1 in 3 African American men between the ages of 21 and 29 now inside the criminal justice system on any given day).

The issues of the film are more urgent today, not less. The onus upon those presenting the film to explain the reality from which the film came (and where that's going) is more pressing than it ever was.

To present the film as another "collaboration between Nick Cave and John Hllcoat", as some kind of celebrity back-slapping afternoon tea, is not only an offensive and bogus rendition of history, it is a betrayal of the film's intent and its powerful call to educate.

This approach is additionally galling in that I am in the midst of negotiating a long awaited North American theatrical/ DVD release (a negotiation now undermined) which, in part, is an attempt to return to the principles of the film after similar short-sighted, celebrity syrup'd exploitation occurred.

I'm very sorry to you and others at Toronto who seem to have been misled in this matter. But, I do think the point that film's have a political/ propaganda function, are inextricably rooted in the suffering and sadness of harsh reality, and can not always be used as promotional tools, treated like a tradable commodity, needs to be made.

The proposed screening and the back-slapping 'dialogue' needs to be cancelled and I'd like the opportunity to write a (fuller) explanation and apology to those public who are to be inconvenienced by this unfortunate saga.

I am truly sorry that I have to write this letter. I look forward to hearing from you.

Your Sincerely, Evan English.