The court said TF1 Droits Audiovisuels, a subsidiary of the broadcaster, failed to honour its agreement to distribute “Miracle at St. Anna” in markets across the world, excluding the United States, Canada and Italy.
The company signed an agreement in 2007 with On My Own production company to bring the film, about the overlooked contribution of African-American soldiers in World War II, to global markets.
The film hit US cinema screens in the United States in 2008 but it was never released internationally because TF1 said the version of the film it received did not conform to what it had been promised.
TF1 refused to give On My Own the €11 million advance it had agreed to pay, prompting Spike Lee and the production company to take the French firm to court.
In a judgement delivered June 21st, the court agreed with them that TF1 was at fault and that its failure to honour its contract had proved “disastrous” for the film.
It ordered TF1 to pay the production company €20 million in damages, plus a further million for moral prejudice.
Lee was awarded €1 million and James McBride, the author of the novel the film was based on, got €200,000.
TF1, which did not immediately reply when asked for a reaction by AFP, was further ordered to pay nine million euros to BNP Paribas bank to cover the advance that it had failed to pay.
“Miracle at St. Anna” follows four members of the all-black 92nd “Buffalo Soldier” Infantry Division trapped behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Italy in 1944.
Both violent and schmaltzy, it portrays the camaraderie of the four men and the tensions that emerge between them as they hole up with an Italian family in a Tuscany village.
It also details the racism they endured back home in the US and from their white commanders in the battle zone.
The film was the first war film for New York-based Lee as well as the first movie he made outside the US.