A producer on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Endless Poetry” is fighting to reclaim a $200,000 loan repayment as part of an ongoing legal dispute with the cult filmmaker’s Satori Films banner.
A Paris tribunal has directed Satori Films to pay Amir Abbas Nokhasteh, an executive producer on “Endless Poetry,” almost $200,000 in repayment of a loan from the producer that was used to make the 2016 film.
A March 2020 court order from the Judicial Tribunal of Paris, seen by Variety, required Satori Films to pay a provisional sum of $193,484.01 as repayment of a $200,000 loan on the film, plus $3,563 in legal costs. However, Satori Films, of which Jodorowsky owns 94%, filed for voluntary liquidation on July 23, according to filings on France’s Infogreffe registry, seen by Variety.
“I’m not looking for sympathy at all. It is more about shedding a light on something that is happening,” Nokhasteh tells Variety.
The origins of the dispute stretch back to 2015 when Jodorowsky, now 91 — a filmmaker globally renowned for surrealist films like “El Topo,” “The Holy Mountain” and “Santa Sangre” — and documentary producer Nokhasteh (“Chuck Norris vs. Communism,” “The Ballad of Exiles Yilmaz Guney”) teamed up for “Endless Poetry,” a biographical drama looking at Jodorowsky’s youth in Chile.
Nokhasteh loaned the filmmaker roughly $200,000 in May 2015, and “Endless Poetry” went on to play the festival circuit in 2016, including Locarno, Munich and San Francisco, where it won the audience award for best narrative feature. In May 2018, the producer was paid $6,515.99 with the promise of additional payments, though those never materialized.
In July 2019, the London-based Nokhasteh took legal action against Paris-based Satori, with the French Tribunal hearing the case this past February.
Satori contended at the time that Nokhasteh’s original 2015 contract had a risk attached to this level of film financing. Satori also argued that repayment of the $200,000 was contingent on the company receiving a ¥50 billion ($475,000) grant from Japan’s Unijapan Bunkachocho Coproduction, and also demanded €5,000 ($5,936) in costs.
Nokhasteh’s legal representatives presented a translation of the contract, uncontested by Satori, in court. The document states that Nokhasteh’s $200,000 is a “direct capital investment”; that $200,000 of the Japanese grant, to be received by Satori after the first Japanese screening of “Endless Poetry” in April 2016 would be set aside for Nokhasteh and sent to him by bank transfer by April 30, 2016; and that the recovery of Nokhasteh’s debt is without any condition. The court order similarly found that the contract did not have these conditions.
Following the court decision, Satori appealed unsuccessfully. However, now that the company is in voluntary liquidation, Nokhasteh will have to declare his claim to the liquidator and go through the legal process again, as the court judgement pertains only to a working company.
“It’s hard. It makes you feel like nothing,” says Nokhasteh.
Separately, Satori has also been in the middle of an acrimonious separation from former company president Xavier Guerrero Yamamoto, who has producer credits on “Endless Poetry” and Jodorowsky titles “The Dance of Reality” and “Pyschomagic, a Healing Art.”
Referring to the Nokhasteh case, Yamamoto told Variety, “Jodorowsky has money. He has enough money to solve all the problems and all the debts. But he doesn’t want to use his money to pay.”
“As I always said, I am an artist and I don’t do art to make money,” Jodorowsky told Variety via email. “Little by little, I economized money during 20 years in order to produce my own films. I did it. I spent almost 2 millions of dollars [sic] to make my three last movies, and I lost everything because my films are not commercial.”
The filmmaker alleges that Satori owes him €700,000 ($826,941). “As you know, when you produce independent films, you take the risk to lose your money, because true art is not a business and my films didn’t make profit,” said Jodorowsky.
Jodorowsky’s latest film, documentary “Psychomagic, a Healing Art,” begins streaming in the U.S. on Aug. 7 via Alamo On Demand.
Manori Ravindran contributed to this report.