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French TV channel must pay 32 million euros to Spike Lee and associates

French television channel TF1 has been ordered to pay 32 million euros to US film-maker Spike Lee, author James McBride and a company distributing his film Miracle at Santa Anna. A French court found that TF1’s distribution arm killed the movie’s chances after disappointing returns in the US.

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Privately-owned TF1 bought exclusive rights to distribute Miracle at Santa Anna everywhere outside the US, Canada and Italy in a so’called “deal memo” with US-based company On My Own. 

Dossier: Festival d'Avignon 2011

In a plot with echoes of French hit Indigènes, the film tells the story of a group of black soldiers encircled in an Italian village during World War II.

But the film did poorly at the box office when it hit American screens in 2008 and outside the US, it was only shown in Toronto and Rome.

That was thanks to TF1’s Droits audiovisuels company, according to Lee and his fellow-plaintiffs, because, when production was being wrapped up, the French firm claimed that the film was not exactly what had been promised.

The court ruled that the suppliers had not breached any contractual obligation and slapped TF1 with a string of fines. It now has to pay:

  • 23.7 million euros to On My Own;
  • 1.5 million euros to Spike Lee;
  • 200,000 euros to James McBride, who cowrote the script and wrote the book on which the film was based;
  • Nine million euros owed to BNP Paribas bank.

It must also pay for advertisements outlining the judgement in the French press.

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