Unauthorized Queer Joker Movie Set In Batman Universe Pulled From Release

The People’s Joker, a queer coming-of-age movie set in the Batman universe, has been pulled from the Toronto Film Festival. According to the official TIFF synopsis, the film is about an aspiring clown struggling with her gender identity who dreams of being cast in a TV sketch series in Gotham City, where comedy has been criminalized. After a failed audition, she teams with another aspiring comedian to form their own comedy troupe that attracts “a rogues’ gallery of would-be comics.”


A trans comic herself, Drew’s debut directorial feature also sees her playing the leading role. Drew gave a Zoom interview on Tuesday before the film premiered, where she said she and the other filmmakers knew they were in “an illegal gray zone” but that the film’s classification as a parody aimed to protect it from copyright infringement. The People’s Joker then had its premiere screening as part of the Toronto Film Festival’s Midnight Madness program. Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns the rights to the Batman universe, has not acknowledged the film.

Festival organizers now confirm, per Variety, that the movie has been withdrawn from its upcoming slots at TIFF. The withdrawal notice, which reads, “The filmmaker has withdrawn this film due to rights issues,” was posted on the festival’s website following the premiere. The film was preceded by a title card stating that the film is an unauthorized parody and that “all video and graphics featured in the film are original materials” aside from “licensed stock.” Drew commented on Twitter by starting the hashtag #FreeThePeoplesJoker:

Despite the built-in riskiness of making an unlicensed movie set in one of the most intensely-trademarked universes in entertainment, those who caught the Joker satire’s premiere had positive things to say. Various fans who screened the film celebrated it online, calling it “so incredible, so funny, so touching, so mind-blowing, so unbelievable,” and even the best film at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. Everything about this movie, from the concept to the plot itself, is framed as a joke, but it seems that self-awareness paid off in the final product.

Based on the concept alone, it’s a wildly ambitious endeavor made all the more impressive because Drew is a first-time director. Regardless of whether or not it even had a chance of rising above all the legal red tape, she deserves her flowers for having the guts to make a film like thisand the skill to bring itto TIFF. However, whether The People’s Jokerwill get to be witnessed by DC fans beyond those at the premiere remains a more complicated question.

Source: Vera Drew, Variety

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