Many filmmakers would probably like to air their grievances cinematically, but few of them would choose to do so if they had to go through what director Nick Broomfield did in order to make "Kurt and Courtney."
The British documentarian starts out his scathing new movie, which began a two-week run at Salt Lake City's Tower Theatre on Friday, by investigating claims that musician-turned-actress Courtney Love may have had a hand in the death of her husband, musician Kurt Cobain, from Nirvana.As the film progresses, Broomfield eventually focuses his spotlight on his struggles to get the project made in the face of many hurdles thrown up by Love and her legal representatives.
In spite of all the troubles, Broomfield said he doesn't hate Love or any of the other people who have made it so hard to complete the film and get it into theaters.
"They can still have hard feelings about it if they want to, but I've already gone past it. Life's too short for grudges," he said during a telephone interview from Los Angeles.
Broomfield claims he went into the movie expecting "to disprove all the theories as being the works of crackpots" or make a film that came out on Love's side. However, not only did she refuse to be interviewed for the movie, she did everything in her power to stop him from making and showing it.
"Before I started making it I thought she was a very charming person - at least from what I'd seen of her," he said. "But everything she did kept lending credence to these `Courtney is a monster' theories."
At Love's behest, officials from the EMI publishing group refused to give Broomfield permission to use two songs, Nirvana's "(Smells Like) Teen Spirit" and"Doll Parts," from Love's band, Hole, in the film.
That dispute and pressure from Love's attorneys led Sundance Film Festival officials to pull the movie from the 1998 festival schedule just days before the event began in January. But in spite of his obvious disagreements with the festival's organizers, Broomfield did complete his duties as a juror for the event's competitions.
"It was a very awkward situation for me and for Sundance," he said, adding that he thinks the incident has actually given the festival a black eye.
"(The film festival) serves a very important function: giving a place for independent filmmakers to show their works," he said. "What happened with my film sends a clear signal that all may not be well with Sundance."
The corresponding furor caused "Kurt and Courtney" to become the most-talked-about film of the festival. And though Sundance officials refused to show the film, it eventually showed up at the near-by Slamdunk Film Festival, one of several Sundance offshoots. There, it was screened at midnight for a packed house of patrons who either stood or sat on fold-out chairs at the Elks Lodge in Park City.
"It was very gratifying to have so many people show up at that time of night to see it. That seems to vindicate me and justify what I went through," Broomfield said.
One of the people in attendance at the screening was Bill Banning, owner of San Francisco's Roxie Theater. After seeing the film, Banning offered to show it at his theater and distribute it - which proved almost as daunting as making the movie. (See attached story for details on those struggles.)
Thanks to Banning's intervention, "Kurt and Courtney" is currently enjoying runs in major U.S. cities. However, the version of the film being shown has been pruned of the two offending songs, despite the fact that the concert footage had been licensed to the British Broadcasting Corp., which partially bankrolled the documentary.
"I still believe that the music has been properly licensed, but the fact that the songs were left out helps make my point about Court-ney's interference," Broomfield said. "Cutting the songs is a small price to pay for people to be able to see the movie."
And he may not be done tinkering with the film. Though he originally indicated that he might include footage about the Sundance "censorship" issue, Broomfield is now considering chronicling Banning's early distribution problems.
"The feeling is that it would make a very nice epilogue," he said.