For Good Film Faces Legal Challenge
7 April 2016 at 12:46 am
A documentary film developed via philanthropic funds through GoodPitch in Australia has hit a legal hurdle – a court challenge trying to prevent its public release.
Former Papua New Guinea politician Dame Carol Kidu is suing first-time film director Hollie Fifer to prevent the release of her 77-minute documentary called The Opposition.
The film is about the struggle to stop the eviction of 3,000 people from a decades-old squatter community to make way for an Australian-backed property development with a hotel, marina and exhibition centre.
The production team will face a Sydney Court on Friday for an interlocutory hearing where a judge will decide if the case should go to trial. At stake is the Australian release of the film this month and its inclusion in the world renowned Hot Docs Documentary film festival in Toronto.
The Opposition tells the story of a David-and-Goliath battle over land in Papua New Guinea. It follows Joe Moses, a community leader of a settlement in Port Moresby who tries to save the families before they are violently evicted off the land at Paga Hill, a prominent headland on Port Moresby’s Fairfax Harbour and the developers move in.
Dame Carol’s statement of claim is that she was not the “freedom fighter” and “hero” of the eviction drama she is portrayed as in the documentary, and she understood the filmmakers were only following her as part of a “school project” that would not become a commercial release.
The film and its outreach project raised philanthropic funds during the GoodPitch Australia fundraising event in 2014. Financial support came from the Caledonian Foundation, Britdocs, the Documentary Australia Foundation and Mundango Abroad – a philanthropic fund focusing its support on PNG.
Good Pitch brings together documentary filmmakers with foundations, NGOs, campaigners, philanthropists, policymakers, brands and media around leading social and environmental issues. GoodPitch Australia said the aim is “to forge coalitions and campaigns that are good for all these partners, good for the films and good for society”.
The film’s production has also received funding from Screen Australia and Screen NSW.
“The company denies the allegations and we stand by director Hollie Fifer, our processes and The Opposition 100 per cent,” the film’s Producer Rebecca Barry, from Media Stockade, told Pro Bono Australia News.
“She has conducted a piece of legitimate investigative reporting in the public interest following appropriate codes of practice. The world needs to see it.
“The documentary was thoroughly-researched, considered and checked both legally and journalistically by professionals with extensive experience in PNG culture and politics.
“We respect Dame Carol Kidu and her legacy in PNG. Because of that we showed her the rough cut and final cut to the film and made amendments..
Barry said after that everything than made a complete u-turn and she cannot account for the change and is “troubled by the motivation” for the turn of events that led to the legal action.
Barry said she had gone to great lengths to ensure that the funders and philanthropic partners of the documentary were being kept informed of the legal challenge all the way along.
She said it was still to be decided how an ongoing legal challenge would be funded if the case wasn’t found in their favour on Friday.