Sundance Film Festival hit with defamation suit
The subject of a documentary debuting at the Sundance Film Festival is suing for defamation of character. What is he claiming they did wrong?
A Florida property director is none-too-pleased with the filmmakers behind a documentary about the construction of his mega-mansion in Orlando. David Siegel is so upset that he's filed a $75,000 defamation lawsuit again director Lauren Greenfield and producer Frank Evers — along with the Sundance Film Festival — to keep the film from debuting at the Park City, Utah festival next week.
Siegel claims the documentary, The Queen of Versailles, puts his business and personal finances on blast. The film revolves around the construction of his 90,000-square foot mansion modeled after France's famed Versailles palace, along with his alleged financial troubles.
The problem? Siegel claims his company, Westgate Resorts Ltd., is far from bankrupt — and his lawyer says the Robert Redford-founded festival described the film as a "rags-to-riches-to-rags" story.
"The average reader would think he was broke," Siegel's lawyer, Michael Marder, told the Los Angeles Times. "Westgate is a stable and profitable company."
Marder added that his client is worried about the bad press — especially since he has a timeshare resort property in the area.
"We've had people wondering if the doors are shutting," Marder said. "It can't hit any closer to home."
So far, Sundance and the filmmakers have refused to change the wording of the official guide and maintain that Siegel's home went into foreclosure. A spokesman added that the festival "maintains its long-held and firm commitment to freedom of expression and looks forward to screening this film by an award-winning filmmaker at the opening of Sundance Film Festival 2012."
We're wondering why Siegel isn't suing for more cash, especially since he could lose business as a result. Maybe he's just trying to drum up press for the film — publicity is good for film promotion, right?