Norval Morrisseau: Director Gets Court Date for Production Order Fight

Canadian filmmaker Jamie Kastner has launched a fundraiser to support his legal costs in fighting the Ontario Provincial Police against a production order that could force him to surrender the source material for his documentary.

Kastner is the director of “There Are No Fakes,” a 2019 doc that uncovered an art fraud ring that passed off fake paintings as originals by the celebrated Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau, known for his vibrant paintings of the natural world and First Nations mythology.

The eye-opening film revealed there were up to 10 times more Morrisseau forgeries on the market as there were real works, and that the artist’s own nephew may have been complicit in helping to produce the fakes.

The film’s release inspired investigators in Thunder Bay, Ontario, to pursue the case, and in early March, police made eight arrests and 40 charges in addition to seizing 1,000 fake Morrisseau paintings. However, as part of the ongoing investigation, investigators also slapped Kastner with a production order, a legally enforceable order that compelled the filmmaker to hand over all of his source material. The director and his lawyer Iain MacKinnon have been fighting to keep the documents — which haven’t yet been opened — sealed.

The case will be heard in court in Thunder Bay on July 7.

Ahead of the date, Kastner has launched a petition urging the court to “strike down” the production order, as well as a crowd-funding campaign to raise funds for legal costs. The fundraiser has a goal of CAD$20,000 ($15,000).

“We have to fight this because it goes against basic journalistic freedom and the need to protect our sources,” Kastner told Variety earlier this year. “If talking to doc makers and journalists becomes synonymous to talking to police, no one would ever talk to us.”

Kastner’s crusade against the OPP production order has received the support of the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), which said in March that it “strongly condemns” police actions in the case.

“Journalists and documentary filmmakers are not agents of the police and should never be forced to turn over interviews or source material,” said Brent Jolly, president of the CAJ.

“If people believe being interviewed by a journalist is equivalent to giving a police statement, confidence in journalism will be dramatically eroded,” he said.

Ontario authorities carried out a 2.5-year investigation into the case, involving more than 90 police officers over multiple jurisdictions. They’re believed to have taken 271 statements — dwarfing the 17 interviews Kastner completed for the film, and prompting questions as to why police require documentary material given the vast testimony they’ve gathered themselves.

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