Kurt Cobain’s death was ruled a suicide in 1994, but there are some people who continue to believe that the Nirvana frontman was murdered. Around the same time that Montage Of Heck finally made it to commercial theaters, a trailer for a conspiracy theory docu-drama centered on Kurt Cobain’s death was released. Directed by Benjamin Statler, Soaked In Bleach tells the story of the investigation of Cobain’s death through the lens of a private detective Courtney Love hired to find Cobain after he disappeared from rehab. Cheesy reenactments abound, and overall, the film looks overwrought and dramatic — an unnecessary follow-up to 1998’s Kurt & Courtney. Love’s legal team has issued a cease-and-desist warning against any theater screening Soaked In Bleach under the pretense that the film is defamatory. You can read the entire notice here, but below is a brief summation of the legal grounds that Love stands on:
We demand that you immediately cease and desist from infringing on Ms. Cobain’s rights in any manner whatsoever, including but not limited to completely halting the Film’s planned exhibition and promotion.
The Film falsely presents a widely and repeatedly debunked conspiracy theory that accuses Ms. Cobain of orchestrating the death of her husband Kurt Cobain. A false accusation of criminal behavior is defamatory per se under California Civil Code Section 45a, which entitles Ms. Cobain to both actual and presumed damages.
The producers of Soaked In Bleach made the following statement about the cease-and-desist notice to Deadline:
We were disturbed to learn that Courtney Love’s lawyers sent threatening letters to movie theaters all over the country. Most arrived before Soaked In Bleach was released last week, presumably before she or her lawyers ever saw it. She obviously hoped to scare theater owners into dropping the film. Thankfully, very few were intimidated. Most saw the letter for what it is – a cowardly attack on the rights of free speech, free expression and free choice.
Courtney Love’s uninformed accusations and efforts to discredit the film are totally off base. The film examines the well documented facts surrounding the death of Kurt Cobain and it questions much of what the public has been told about those events. Most of the opinions and theories presented in the film come directly from facts gathered by Tom Grant, the private investigator Courtney Love hired the week before Kurt’s body was discovered. Tom quickly became suspicious and tape recorded all his conversations with Courtney and others in the days leading up to and after Kurt’s death. The film uses those recordings to reenact Tom’s encounters with Courtney Love and others in Kurt’s inner circle. It also presents the views of Norm Stamper, Seattle’s Police Chief at the time, and Dr. Cyril Wecht, a leading forensic pathologist, who both question whether Kurt could have committed suicide.
Courtney Love and her lawyers clearly don’t like that the film presents a compelling case for re-opening the investigation into Kurt’s death. They should respect the First Amendment and let people decide for themselves.
Soaked In Bleach is in theaters now — for the moment, anyway.