French film strikes bum note with singer's papa

9th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 9 (AFP) - The euphoria surrounding France's Oscar-nominated hit "Les Choristes" (The Chorus) soured Wednesday when the father of a girl who sang for the soundtrack angrily condemned the "exploitation" of his child and demanded a cut of the film's profits.

PARIS, March 9 (AFP) - The euphoria surrounding France's Oscar-nominated hit "Les Choristes" (The Chorus) soured Wednesday when the father of a girl who sang for the soundtrack angrily condemned the "exploitation" of his child and demanded a cut of the film's profits.

Francis Hartmann, whose daughter Lucile was a member of the Lyon-based Saint-Marc choir, threatened to bring the film's production company Galatee to court if it does not agree to a financial settlement.

"Seeing that the film generated more than EUR 100 million in revenue I do not see why our children, who've worked like animals, should not receive their proper share," he said.

A feel-good film set in post-war rural France, Les Choristes is about a lowly music teacher who changes the lives of boys at a reform school by introducing them to song.

Since its release last year it has been seen by more than 8.5 million people in France, while the soundtrack remains at the top of the CD charts with 1.5 million copies sold. It failed to win the Oscar for best foreign film, but got the best music award at the French equivalent, the Cesars.

Members of the Saint-Marc choir performed the dozen or so songs, but only one - the soloist Jean-Baptiste Maunier - actually appeared in the film, playing the angelic hero Morhange.

Galatee Films signed a contract with the choir under which it paid EUR 21,000 (USD 28,000) for three days of recordings, and later added one percent of royalties in recognition of the film's success. But no money went to the individual choristers.

"The children, who contributed to the success of the film, the DVD and the soundtrack, have received absolutely no remuneration for their artistic performance," said Hartmann's lawyer Alain Jakubowitz. "The intellectual property code has been flouted."

Hartmann said his daughter's life was turned upside-down by the film's success, as she and her co-choristers were obliged to attend signings, media appearances and nationwide concerts. On several occasions her school had telephoned to say Lucile had fallen asleep in class.

She has now resigned from the choir along with several others including Maunier, he said.

"There's been a shameless exploitation of the children. It was a great adventure that got totally out of control. The film has destroyed the soul, the essence of the choir ... It has become totally taken over by show business and money," said Hartmann.

But the lawyer for Galatee Films, Thierry Levy, said the contract with the choir had been "transparent."

"In full agreement with the parents, the choir judged it best to keep the money for its own activities," he said.

The row recalled the controversy over another recent French hit - Etre et Avoir (To be and to have) - about a year in a rural school. Seven families of children who appeared in it are demanding a share of the profits, though their teacher failed in his bid.

Earlier this week a concert by the Saint-Marc choir in the northeastern city of Metz was cancelled after work inspectors determined that the starting time - 8pm - was too late for the child performers.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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