A transgender Joker film has been pulled from the Toronto International Film Festival

A transgender Joker film has been pulled from the Toronto International Film Festival
Vera Drew in "The People's Joker" Photo: Screenshot

Trans filmmaker Vera Drew’s indie film The People’s Joker has been pulled from the Toronto International Film Festival after Warner Bros. reportedly issued a cease-and-desist order.

The crowd-funded parody, which Drew wrote, directed, and stars in, recasts the iconic Batman villain as a transgender comedian attempting to find her voice in an oppressive society. Drew’s character, according to the film’s official synopsis, spent years numbing herself with fictional drug before grappling with “gender identity, first love, and a fascist caped crusader all while founding an illegal comedy theatre in Gotham City.”

The film is unauthorized by Warner Bros. and DC Comics, a fact the filmmaker acknowledges in a title card that reportedly precedes the film, claiming the characters are used under U.S. fair use doctrine, which protects the use of copyrighted materials for certain purposes. In 1988, the Supreme Court established that parody is protected under the First Amendment.

“If these are our modern myths, and if the purpose of myth is to learn about the human experience and grow and also chart your progress—the hero’s journey and all that stuff—let’s actually do that earnestly with these characters,” Drew said ahead of the film’s premiere.

But that didn’t stop Warner Bros. from reportedly issuing a cease-and-desist after the film received one screening at TIFF. The festival issued the following statement via its website: “The filmmaker has withdrawn this film due to rights issues. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Drew, who was nominated for a 2019 Emmy for editing an episode Sasha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America?, took to Twitter earlier this week to comment on the situation.

“I have no clue how today goes and my team wants me to say nothing of course so I’ll stay vague…but whatever happens in the next few hours, I want you to know…if you’ve been waiting and aching to watch our movie, ur going to get to soon. Stay tuned and stay with me. Need ur help.”

“Everyone is going to get the chance to see this film. I don’t respond well to bullying or pressure from faceless institutions,” she wrote in a statement to The Daily Beast. “It only emboldens me and what I was saying with this film. We’re looking at buyers and distribution partners who will protect us and make this film accessible to trans people and their families everywhere.”

Drew is now urging fans to vote for The People’s Joker to win TIFF’s People’s Choice Award. “We’re the only film with ‘people’s’ in the title, so it’s only fair,” she wrote in a tweet on Thursday.

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