The Link Concordia (CUP) – Concordia-based film collective Cinema Politica received a threatening letter on January 11 from the lawyers for Coca-Cola, stating that the network’s planned film tour for documentary The Coca-Cola Case violates a confidentiality agreement.
The film follows two American lawyers and union leaders as they attempt to bring a case against the soda pop giant for its alleged complicity in the murders of union leaders at bottling plants in Columbia.
Cinema Politica founder Ezra Winton said the letter claimed the film was “defamatory” and included details of private negotiations between the company and the subjects of the documentary.
Cinema Politica, in cooperation with the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), plans to screen The Coca-Cola Case at Cinema Politica locals. It stopped at Concordia on January 18 and its tour will include screenings in over 20 cities across the country and abroad.
“[Coca-Cola] knew about the film from the early days and I’m sure followed its progression. They probably thought that it would play at some film festivals then go away,” Winton told The Link after the letter was received on January 11.
“Now I think that [they’re contacting us because] it’s not just going away – that in fact it’s having a resurgence through our network,” he said.
Filmmakers Carmen Garcia and Germán Gutiérrez have said that Coca-Cola and the film’s subjects had already settled prior claims of a breach of confidentiality.
The corporation now requires information about where and when the documentary was filmed, but could not force the filmmakers to cut footage.
Coca-Cola never contacted Garcia or Gutiérrez directly, choosing instead to level its criticism at the subjects of the documentary and Cinema Politica.
“The idea that you can take legal recourse against an exhibitor is pretty unheard of,” said Winton. “The film is already in the can. It’s already out in public with thousands of copies circulating. It’s with a national public production house. So [when their lawyer sent us that letter] it’s kind of just them going after the little guy because we’re grassroots.”
Winton said he felt Coca-Cola was concerned about the Cinema Politica screenings because they will mostly take place on university campuses, in full view of the youth and students who are the company’s target market. Coca-Cola routinely seeks – and gets – exclusivity contracts with universities and other institutions.
Students at schools including the University of Guelph have held successful campaigns to ban Coke from campuses, citing the company’s record of human rights abuses. Most recently, a Norwegian student association shut out Coke products from all universities and colleges across Norway.
Cinema Politica plans to go ahead with its Coca-Cola Case tour regardless.
“If the NFB or the filmmakers asked us to stop screening it we would. But lawyers that represent Coca-Cola that simply don’t agree with some of the representations in the film – with what the characters in the film say, not the filmmakers [themselves] – it’s as if they’re saying Coca-Cola is beyond any kind of criticism in a documentary film,” explained Winton. “Now they’re sending us this letter, which to me means we’re doing something right.”
The lawyer who sent Winton the letter, Faith Gay of Quinn Emanuel Trial Lawyers in New York City, did not return The Link’s phone calls.