Finally, the people have spoken: “The People’s Joker” is getting a North American theatrical release.

The buzzy film, which had its world premiere at TIFF 2022 in the Midnight section before being dropped by the program, will now be available to the public two years later. The film was acquired by Los Angeles-based distributor Altered Innocence and will open April 5 at the IFC Center in New York City, with more markets to be announced later. 

“The People’s Joker” is set in a parody version of the Batman universe and reimagines the Joker as a trans origin story, with co-writer/director Vera Drew playing the title character. Billed as a “queer coming-of-age superhero parody film,” the feature is not licensed by DC Studios or Warner Bros. Discovery.

Drew withdrew “The People’s Joker” from 2022 TIFF due to rights issues, as announced at the time. The controversy led to the hashtag campaign #FreethePeoplesJoker, with the film debuting in the U.S. at 2023 Outfest, where it was awarded a Special Mention in the North American Narrative Feature competition.

The official synopsis reads: “In the absurdist autobiographically-inspired dark comedy, a painfully unfunny aspiring clown (Vera Drew as Joker the Harlequin) grapples with her gender identity while unsuccessfully attempting to join the ranks of Gotham City’s sole comedy program in a world where comedy has been outlawed. Uniting with a ragtag team of rejects and misfits, Joker the Harlequin forms an illegal anti-comedy troupe that puts her on a collision course with the devious caped crusader controlling the city.”

Tim Heidecker, Bob Odenkirk, Maria Bamford, and Scott Aukerman appear in the film, with Drew, Lynn Downey, Nathan Faustyn, and Kane Distler playing lead characters.

To note, the release for “The People’s Joker” officially states that the film is in no way created by, endorsed by, or affiliated with DC Comics or any of its related companies. 

“I am absolutely thrilled and humbled that Altered Innocence is helping me bring ‘The People’s Joker’ to theaters this spring,” director Drew, who co-wrote the film with Bri LeRose, said in an official statement. “This movie started as a DIY community project for queer artists and I made it with my friends to process what it was like coming out as a trans woman working in the film and TV industry. It has been a long road freeing ‘The People’s Joker’ and finding a release plan that rings true to the queer, anarchist spirit we had while making it. What better home than among Altered Innonence’s catalog of gorgeously gay and deliciously edgy films.”

Altered Innocence founder Frank Jaffe added, “Vera Drew has taken her own life experiences and traumas to craft an entirely new genre of cinema that blurs the lines between documentary, coming-of-age film, and parody. We couldn’t be more thrilled to champion this bold, intelligent, and hilarious piece of queer cinema that audiences around the globe have fallen in love with.”

“The People’s Joker” was filmed entirely on green screen and features the work of over 200 independent, predominantly queer artists, musicians, and animators using 2D, 3D, stop-motion, and more forms of animation.

The film was produced by Joey Lyons and executive produced by Richie Doyle, Conor Hannon, and Riccardo Maddalosso. The film was partly financed by crowdfunding.

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