June 20, 2013
Diana film causes controversy at Cannes
Director Keith Allen on defended his film about Princess Diana's death, amid accusations that it was a one-sided attack on what he called the British "establishment" and entirely funded by Mohamed al-Fayed.
The controversial documentary film that features a paparazzi photograph of Princess Diana dying after a car crash in Paris in 1997, opened today and was shown to the media and potential buyers in Cannes.
The businessman, whose son Dodi died with Diana in the 1997 car crash, has long maintained that the couple was killed on the orders of Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip, believing the royal family did not want Diana marrying a Muslim.
At a sometimes heated press conference in Cannes, where Allen is launching "Unlawful Killing" outside the official film festival, he described the documentary as "forensic," a description some attendees questioned.
The film focuses partly on the 2007/8 inquest into Diana's death and argues the British press failed to properly reflect its findings due to indirect pressure from the royal family. "I thought it was important that the public got to understand in a forensic manner what was happening in this inquest," Allen, best known as a British television actor, told reporters in Cannes.
"I didn't want to make a sensationalist film, I don't think it is a sensationalist film. I think it is a very forensic analysis of a British legal process and I think it reveals certain things that ... don't add up.
"I believe that they should be questioned. That's why I made the film. I hope it shows people that nothing is at it seems."
Allen was directly criticized by one journalist for failing to make clear that the film was entirely funded by Fayed to the tune of 2.5 million pounds (US$4.1 million), a figure provided by a man claiming to be Fayed's representative.
Fayed was not in Cannes to present the film.
"He put money in because nobody else would," Allen said. "If I could have got it somewhere else I would have got it somewhere else. But I didn't, I got it off him."
Investigations by French and British police have concluded the deaths of Diana and Dodi were a tragic accident caused by a speeding chauffeur, who was found to be drunk. They have both rejected Fayed's theories.
Asked what was new in Unlawful Killing, Allen added: "I don't believe that there is too much that is new.
"There's an old saying in our country which is the best kept secrets are on the bookshelves of the British Library. They're all there if you care to go and look for them.
"This is not an attack on the monarchy. It's actually questioning the role of the establishment and in so doing it will make it clear that there are connections between the royal House of Windsor and the establishment."
The documentary includes a photograph of Diana dying after the car crash, an element which the British press focused on in recent days, although Allen played it down.
"As I said when I presented the film, there won't be a sharp intake of breath when you see the photograph of Princess Di. It's nowhere near as sensational or revealing as people made it out to be."
Allen was still not sure whether the documentary would be shown in Britain due to legal issues.
"When you want to screen a film in England, you have to have insurance, and the only way that you can get insurance is if it's lawyer-approved. I could get lawyer approval if I'd made 87 cuts which I wasn't prepared to make."
One early review was damning. "Princess Diana film Unlawful Killing is just unlawfully dull," wrote Baz Bamigboye, albeit in the Daily Mail, deemed an "establishment" newspaper.“I don’t expect they shall enjoy the film,” said Allen at the premiere of the documentary which leaves many things unsaid about the Queen’s husband, Prince Phillip.
During the film there are also accusations against the British press, more specifically toward the BBC, of professional negligence in the coverage of the court case.
Attack and defence - controversy stirs
A spokesman for the film's backers sought to play down the significance of the controversial image being aired, after a friend of Princess Diana expressed anger at the movie.
"The picture has been published in full before, in many parts of the world," the spokesman said in an email to Reuters.
"We acquired the image from an Italian magazine, which had already published it in full. It is also widely available on the web. Only in Britain did the press choose to black out her face.
"Our film is not being shown in the UK and the trailer is only viewable in the UK on the official movie website. We are therefore not publishing anything that the rest of the world has not already seen elsewhere."
But friends of the princess, whose death marked a low point in the British monarchy's popularity with the public, reacted angrily.
"If this is true this is absolutely disgusting," said Rosa Monckton, who went on holiday with Diana a few weeks before she died.
"The fact people are trying to make money -- which is all that they are doing now -- out of her death is quite frankly ... words fail me," she told Britain's Daily Mail newspaper on Tuesday.
The movie aims to prove that a 2007/8 inquest into Diana's death was a cover-up by the "establishment" and "dark forces," according to a statement from the film makers.