Academy Award nominee Michael Radford's ("Il Postino," "The Merchant Of Venice") foray into Spanish language filmmaking has not gone well.
On October 30th of last year, production on "La Mula" ("The Mule"), set to be Radford's Spanish language debut, was stalled with only one week left of shooting to go when funds dried up from Radford's UK based Workhorse and Ireland's Subotica Entertainment (both of whom received grants/monies from their respective national film councils/bodies). Apparently, the money faucet was turned off when an agreement with Spanish co-producer Gheko Films failed to be reached. In a bizarre detail, an unidentified balaclava clad director finished the film in Radford's place.
Now, eight months on, the film is undergoing post-production and Radford, Workhorse and Subotica are being locked out of the editing suite. It is believed that Gheko Films producers Alejandra Frade and Bruce St. Clair are finishing the film, but with some of the negative currently sitting in a lab in London, it's unknown what footage they are working with or how they aim to complete the movie.
Despite the difficulties the film now faces, Radford is keen to finish the film. "I am absolutely committed to finishing 'La Mula.' Why would I abandon a film after two-and-a-half years work?" Radford said, adding, "But I must be allowed to finish it in a way which respects my moral and intellectual rights." However, it seems unlikely that will happen. Post-production is apparently still scheduled to finish by the end of July and distribution offers are already on table for a fall release in Spain.
Of course, it remains to be seen how the film can be promoted if Radford stays removed from the film, and if his name will even be credited. The film is a Spanish Civil War set drama that is based on the book by Juan Eslava Galan that follows the story of a solider and his various misadventures and romantic entanglements through the war. Here is the Publisher's Weekly synopsis:
This light Spanish Civil War story follows the romantic and military misadventures of a perennially put-upon muleteer stuck fighting for a cause he doesn't believe in. Juan Castro Pérez stumbles on a stray mule (he names her Valentina) and smuggles her into his army regiment; his plan is to bring her to his family once the war is over. Though Castro sympathizes with the nationalist forces, his region is solidly Communist and he's forced to enlist on that side, where he, like many of his comrades, does his utmost to avoid combat and get back home; one of his more engaging exploits involves wooing a pensioner's daughter. He eventually defects to the nationalists, and when Castro and Valentina inadvertently cross paths with a group of Communist soldiers, an unarmed Castro thinks he's doomed until the soldiers order him at gunpoint to take them prisoner so they can survive the war. A journalist catches wind of the incident and twists the story into a morale-boosting puff piece that turns Castro into a poster boy for Franco's cause. Castro's dedication to Valentina provides the heartfelt through line to this winsome war story and adds a dose of heartbreak at the novel's close.It certainly sounds interesting, but with the film still caught up in unresolved legal and paperwork between the three production companies, we expect this one to take a while to get resolved and see a proper release. As Irish Film Board CEO Simon Perry notes, "From the point of view of Ignasi Guardans [director general of the Icaa Spanish film institute], John Woodward [UK Film Council CEO] and myself, this film cannot be completed, distributed or sold with a clean chain of title unless it is completed as a Michael Radford film with all the original co-producers."