Vera Drew as the protagonist of The People’s Joker. (Vera Drew)
An unofficial Joker parody with a trans twist has been removed from the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
The People’s Joker, a crowdfunded indie film, was reportedly removed from the TIFF lineup due to “rights issues” – likely to stem from DC Comics and its parent media company Warner Bros.
A spokesperson for the festival said: “The filmmaker has withdrawn this film due to rights issues. We apologise for any inconvenience.”
The film, which calls itself the “illegal comic book movie”, sees various elements from the many origins of The Joker collide in a beautifully archaic trans story.
The protagonist, known only as “an unfunny aspiring clown”, grapples with issues surrounding her gender identity after years of numbing herself with irony and a fictional inhalant named “Smylex”.
“It’s a queer coming of age Joker origin story,” the movie’s description reads. “Featuring the work of 200 independent artists on three separate continents, all made during a global pandemic.”
After years of numbing herself with Smylex, an unfunny clown named Joker grapples with gender identity, first love, and a fascist caped crusader all while founding an illegal comedy theater in Gotham City.
THE PEOPLE’S JOKER, a queer coming of age Joker origin tale. pic.twitter.com/SPy2ZPe11d
— Vera Drew (@VeraDrew22) September 9, 2022
It also uses a hefty amount of elements from DC media, including The Dark Knight Rises’ Bane and several versions of the Joker. Despite there being no explicit announcements from companies representing DC or Warner Bros, it’s thought these elements were the cause of the takedown.
In an interview with the Daily Beast, director Vera Drew explained she doesn’t “respond well to bullying or pressure from faceless institutions” and the attempt to silence her project “only emboldens me and what I was saying with this film.
“We’re looking for buyers and distribution partners who will protect us and make this film accessible to trans people and their families everywhere.”
She also clarified that, upon finding out her film had been chosen to be shown at TIFF, her initial reaction was one of depression because she knew that a cease-and-desist would likely follow.
Despite that, Drew’s mission to release the film hasn’t stopped. In a statement on Twitter, she wrote: “FREE THE PEOPLE’S JOKER and vote for us ASAP for the people’s choice award.
“We’re the only film with ‘people’s’ in the title, so it’s only fair. Also, I only get to wear one of my screening lewks since the film got pulled, so it’s only fair.”
Since then, #FREETHEPEOPLESJOKER has been trending on Twitter, with fans telling Warner Bros to “knock it off” and advocating for the film’s reinstatement.
One user said: “If a giant studio doesn’t want you to see something, that should make you want to see it even more,” while others who had the pleasure of watching the film’s initial screening said it was the “best thing I saw at TIFF 2022.”
“I think everyone needs to see it. You WILL get to see it, I know this because I believe in it.”