The $10m (€6.8m) Spanish civil war drama La Mula has been left in turmoil after director Michael Radford walked off set due to a dispute between its co-producers.

Radford claims that he suspended shooting on Saturday (October 31), as the film entered its eighth and final week, over concerns about the film’s financing.

La Mula is a co-production between Spain’s Gheko Films and Gheko Films Sur, Radford’s Workhorse Entertainment, Germany’s Integral Films and Ireland’s Subotica Entertainment. The UK Film Council and the Irish Film Board are also supplying funding.

Radford told ScreenDaily: “On Saturday 31st October 2009 in my capacity as co-producer I was forced to suspend the shooting because I did not believe the financing to be safe.

“It is true that the film has been fully financed for some time now as the Irish Film Board and the UK Film Council will confirm. However, in order to release these funds all the co-producers have to sign together a number of agreements. In anticipation of this, I, the crew and the facilities companies started work in good faith. This is normal practice in these kinds of co-production. However Gheko has consistently failed to sign these documents for reasons known only to themselves. We kept putting back the deadline, and still they wouldn’t sign. The last deadline was Friday October 30. After that it would be too late. As they failed to show up again, I was forced to suspend shooting.” He add that he “fully intends” to go back and finish the film.

The UKFC, which is providing $1.74m (€1.1m) of funding to the film, confirmed that it had released $47,300 (€32,255) to the production but was unable to send anymore until the contracts has been signed. A spokesperson said: “We cannot cashflow the agreed production funding [worth $1.74m (€1.18m)] until the financial contracts agreed with the Spanish producers are signed. The UKFC, along with the Irish financiers involved in the project, have tried to keep discussions open with the Spanish producers and have urged them to fully collaborate in order to finalise the financial closing of the film.”

However, Gheko claim that Radford has broken the terms of his contract by failing to show up for filming, and have drafted in a local director in a bid to finish the shot this week.

Alejandra Frade, the Spanish producer of La Mula at Gheko Films, says: “The financing [for La Mula] has been experiencing changes for the last three months in order to cover the gaps and cash-flow problems experienced by the UK and Irish co-producers, and I have been involved throughout the process. However, I have been unable to accept the conditions that were proposed to me, as they imposed an excessive financial burden on the Spanish co-production side. At the moment we’re working towards a solution that is suitable for all, which we should manage in the next few days.” 

The film tells the story of a solider, who finds a donkey in the middle of a battlefield during Spain’s civil war. Spanish actors Mario Casas and Maria Valverde lead the cast.

A spokesperson for Relabel Comunicación, which works on behalf of Gheko, said that the actors, many of whom have obligations after this project, felt an allegiance to Radford but were determined to finish the film.

La Mula, which is Gheko’s first feature production since 2006, received one of Eurimages largest co-production loans in 2008 winning $865,000 (€590, 020), and it received a further boost when it was pre-bought by Spanish broadcaster TVE and Andalusia’s Canal Sur.