‘People’s Joker,’ Queer Movie Set in Batman Universe, Pulled From TIFF Over ‘Rights Issues’

The director of “The People’s Joker,” a queer coming-of-age movie set in the Batman universe, has pulled the movie from the Toronto International Film Festival over alleged “rights issues.”

Helmed by Los Angeles-based director Vera Drew, the mixed-media movie follows an aspiring clown (played by Drew) struggling with her gender identity while dreaming of being cast in a TV sketch show among a cast of Jokers and Harlequins.

An official synopsis from TIFF reads: “With comedy criminalized in Gotham City, the show is the only government-sanctioned space for funny people, but only those who will toe the party line. Disillusioned by a botched audition, Vera partners with a birdlike slacker to found their own alternative comedy troupe, attracting not only a rogues’ gallery of would-be comics, but also the ire of a fascistic caped crusader.”

Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns DC Comics and holds the rights to the Batman universe, hasn’t yet commented on the film, though it appears the studio may have issued a cease-and-desist to block the movie’s three further screenings, which have now been canceled.

Variety has contacted Warner Bros. Discovery for clarification and comment.

Drew hinted at potential discord around the movie on Tuesday, posting a cryptic tweet: “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.”

The film, which is being sold by UTA, was programmed as part of the fest’s popular Midnight Madness selection, and screened on Tuesday night to delighted fans.

Wrote Twitter user @JuiceSimpsons: “I can’t even begin to describe what #ThePeoplesJoker was like. @VeraDrew22 has created something so incredible, so funny, so touching, so mind-blowing, so unbelievable…I’m absolutely buzzing rn. Thank you @PeterKapow and everyone involved in bringing this to life!!”

Another fan of the movie, @BenSandergaard, wrote: “THE PEOPLE’S JOKER is the best film at TIFF this year and you’ll never see it! A parodic journey into the world of DC with a trans lens. This is gonna be my favourite screening of the festival. The film will live on in the hearts of those who were in the audience!”

The Canadian Press reported on Wednesday that in a post-screening Q&A, Drew said she had edited out scenes from the 2019 film “Joker” that were previously included.

In a statement on the title’s official TIFF page, the festival shared that the “filmmaker has withdrawn this film due to rights issues. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

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