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Warning re filming in Northern Argentina


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#1 Mike Brennan

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 07:38 AM

12 members of a French/Australian crew I am part of have been held under house arrest (in a hotel) for the last 5 days in Northern Argentina.
Our shoot has been grounded as the rest of the team must remain as witnesses.

The charge against the 12 named was theft from the local Tourist official in the town of Iguazu, who was our fixer and provider of transport ect. Here problem was she wanted cash payment of the balance on the day of our departure. The PM had apparently agreed a wire transfer which arrived to the company account the day after we left.

In the meantime she had called in the police and did not call them off even when she had received payment.
She named as many mebers of crew as possible even though the "miscommunication" was between her and the production manager.
Locals tell us that a Belgium and Japanese crew were also victim to this behaviour by the very same person.

Under local law the accused must return to the town where the alleged offense was committed.
Unfortunatly for us we had travelled 4 hours to the south by the time the local judge issued an order for our return.
This involed us being arrested at an airport, held at a poice station then driven at 3 am under armed guard back to our unfriendly fixer.

It took a few days for the judge to deliberate.
On Friday he declared that most of the 12 had no case to answer.
But also on Friday two other locals, employed by the fixer made same charge against the same list of crew! So the judge has to sit these cases today (Monday)


Despite intervention from French Prime Minister, three lawyers and it being front page news in the capital the Argentine President (who called in the Federal police to investigate) has not been able to make it possible for us to either leave or carry on filming.

In the meantime a $US1m value in HD rental kit remains idle, including a cineflex and three HD cameras.

Latest news is that the "victim" is said to have fled the country and is now in Cambodia!




Mike
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#2 David Auner aac

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 08:29 AM

Wow, Mike. This is really bad luck. I hope your trouble will be over soon. In the meantime all the best!

Cheers, Dave
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#3 Mike Brennan

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 01:13 PM

Wow, Mike. This is really bad luck. I hope your trouble will be over soon. In the meantime all the best!

Cheers, Dave


Thanks Dave,
yes bad luck it is. Short of carrying at least US$150k in cash I don't see anything that a foreign production company could have done to prevent this farcical tale.

And if the locals realise film crews have substantial amounts cash this could create a new danger.



Mike, from the poolside prison.
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#4 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 01:20 PM

I'll remember to try and pay up front if I'm ever down there!

Well, with no victim in sight, hopefully you guys will get home soon.
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#5 Amin Khan

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 02:46 PM

wow, what a bummer.You'll always get some who'll try it on anywhere you go. Im sorry about the rental equipment but you'll be dining out on this anecdote for years. ;) Best of luck and hope you get out soon.
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#6 Jesus Sifuentes

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 12:52 AM

Oh brother. There is nothing like being isolated in a country you have no power to contest the allegations. Pray you get out of that mess ASAP. Are you part of a union? Is there anything us members here at cinematography can do on your behalf?
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#7 Mike Brennan

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 01:17 PM

Im safely back in Europe now and the rest have the crew have returned to France Switzerland and Australia.

It was quite odd to go across the Arg/Brazil border and then to check in for the flight with a lawyer as bodyguard.


But sadly the French production manager has to remain, supported by translator and a lawyer, until the court case is heard or unless enough pressure can be applied to the judge to drop the case.

Yesterday there were 5 lawyers and the French consul himself in the hotel.


Thanks for the on and off list support, in this instance going public via local media and web, whilst still under detention was deemed a good approach and probably did help.



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#8 JD Hartman

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Posted 06 March 2008 - 05:48 PM

Did I miss something in your original post? Theft of what? Or is that the local term for, "Failure to bribe a local official."? Will charges be filed against the Tourist official?
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#9 Mike Brennan

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 03:50 AM

Did I miss something in your original post? Theft of what? Or is that the local term for, "Failure to bribe a local official."? Will charges be filed against the Tourist official?



The charge appears to be Theft. Technically leaving town when the money hadn't arrived.
By the time we were arrested (following day) the money had arrived by wire.
But the charge had been made and local law says if a charge is subsequently dropped the accuser is bought before the judge for wasting time or making false statements or whatever.

The real problem was the person named 12 members of crew on the charge so they had to return to the town. After 3 days the judge agreed that only a couple of people should have to answer. But as he made this judgement two more charges of theft were made against the 12, this took another few days to deal with....

The rest of the crew had to remain as witnesses.
The PM is still under detention in Arg today.

Mike B
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#10 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 06:52 AM

I'm torn between feeling that Argentinean civil law is bent as a corkscrew, and being aware that there are several times in my career where I'd have loved to have nonpaying clients dragged back to town in shackles.

Needless to say this is inapplicable here as the lying toerags have been paid, so all I can do is wish your poor unfortunate PM a comfortable stay until it's all resolved - and I'm sure if there's anything anyone can do from this end you wouldn't hesitate to mention it.

We're left, I feel, with a severe disinclination to go within a thousand miles of Argentina.

P
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#11 Mike Brennan

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 10:09 AM

I'm torn between feeling that Argentinean civil law is bent as a corkscrew, and being aware that there are several times in my career where I'd have loved to have nonpaying clients dragged back to town in shackles.

Needless to say this is inapplicable here as the lying toerags have been paid, so all I can do is wish your poor unfortunate PM a comfortable stay until it's all resolved - and I'm sure if there's anything anyone can do from this end you wouldn't hesitate to mention it.

We're left, I feel, with a severe disinclination to go within a thousand miles of Argentina.

P


Thanks Phil,
Our experience was in the towns mentioned in the original post, not sure about the rest of the country which we were deprived of shooting in and thus finishing the project....

Seems to be the largest number of film crew held for the longest time.


Mike
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#12 Delorme Jean-Marie

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 07:50 PM

the sooner you pay your fixers the less youhave problems yen you don't master them. simple law of production!
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#13 Mike Brennan

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 06:08 AM

the sooner you pay your fixers the less youhave problems yen you don't master them. simple law of production!



That simple law doesn't work with all fixers. In rare cases, the more money you pay the more they want.


Mike Brennan
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