French customs bar Last Looks from Cannes

MUMBAI: French Customs officials have quarantined a 35mm print of the controversial film Last Looks, which was to have its world premiere, out of competition, at the current Cannes Film Market.

The film’s director, Nick Brown, claims the seizure was “a disguised act of censorship” and that the film deserved a public screening before condemnation.

A source close to the production described the film as showing the actual deaths of actors and behind-the-camera crew members during production of a low-budget American indie horror film called The Evil Eye, that was filmed in the summer of 2006 among the Turkish and Greek Islands in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Evil Eye deaths were first reported in the Rhodes daily newspapers Dimokratiki. According to Dimokratiki, the largely American crew was using a 33-meter long Turkish ship as a set, as well as for living quarters. But when the ship docked on 3 July 2006 in the port of Faliraki, it was in order to seek medical help for a young actress, Malaysian born Ying-Yu Tan, who later died of unnamed injuries.

A crew member told the paper that the filming of The Evil Eye was aborted when the director Zack Freedman, the cinematographer Scott Maher and soundman Ryan Denmark were killed when the small boat they were shooting from blew up during a staged explosion at sea.

Greek authorities continue to investigate and were quoted as saying that it was impossible to say how many people had been killed or were missing because it appeared that some of the dead might have been buried at sea. The surviving production team refused to cooperate with authorities and fled the country.

Law enforcement officials briefly held a “person of interest” in connection with several of the deaths – the then 19-year-old videographer Nick Brown who is said to have captured the grisly events on his own camera. Brown, a citizen of Great Britain, was never charged with any crimes and was released. According to people involved in the production, after his release Brown returned to his home in New York City and edited the material into a feature-length motion picture that he titled Last Looks.

Brown now says he will fly to France in an attempt to resolve differences with French authorities, who were apparently tipped off by relatives of the deceased that he planned to screen his film out of competition at Cannes. Said Brown, “One way or another this film will be shown at Cannes, and I predict that people will find, in spite of all the rumors swirling around, that it is a very entertaining movie.”