Cities producer confronts Unplugged makers

Cities producer confronts Unplugged makers

By Patrick Frater

Sat, 19 May 2012, 17:22 PM (HKT)

Policy/Legal News

French producer Emmanuel BENBIHY has launched a frontal attack on Australian producers Gary HAMILTON and John POLSON over the pair's Sydney Unplugged (2013) omnibus film.

Benbihy, who has been behind Paris, je t'aime (2006) and New York, I Love You (2009), claims that Sydney Unplugged is a breach of the rights to his 'Cities of Love' franchise.

Sydney Unplugged, which was unveiled in June last year as Sydney I Love You, is a feature length film that includes 12 vignettes from different directors illustrating different aspects of the Australian city.

"[Hamilton's] Arclight Films Pty Ltd is selling troubles and possible lawsuits to distributors as we will defend our rights wherever we can," said Benbihy in a statement. "They do not envision the consequences this has in Europe or in the US where IP and copyright law is seriously defended as well for formats such as the Cities of Love franchise. We will fight the distribution of an infringing right everywhere we can."

Contacted by Film Business Asia, Hamilton was quick to play down Benbihy's claims.

"There is no story here. Our film is entirely different from the I Love You series of films. It has nothing to do with the cities of love, but instead is a vibrant story of one of the world's great cities, showcasing Australia's leading talent over 1 year and four seasons in Sydney," Hamilton said. "Does Emmanuel have copyright over any film with a multiple-story line set in a city? I would be interested to know what exactly Emmanuel is claiming copyright over."

Benbihy, who is based in Shanghai and is preparing a Shanghai I Love You film, has previously taken legal action against his former business partners at
Visitor Pictures, Sherazade Films and Very Useful Co, claiming copyright and
trademark infringement, breach of contract and unfair competition over a project Love Berlin: How We've Met, set in the German capital.

Benbihy says he has since settled with some of those companies and that they this week signed a long-form licensing agreement for the newly retitled Berlin I Love You.

Directors attached to Sydney Unplugged include Alex PROYAS, David MICHÔD, Ivan SEN, John CURRAN, Kieran DARCY-SMITH, Liev SCHREIBER, Rachel WARD, Ray LAWRENCE and Russell CROWE. Anthony LaPAGLIA and Toni COLLETTE will also make their directorial debuts. Polson, director of the short film festival Tropfest will also direct a segment."

Benbihy says that he has previously contacted Hamilton and Polson, but feels that now is the appropriate time to go public with his grievance as Sydney Unplugged is being sold in Cannes.

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