It was promoted as a chance for the deaf and hard of hearing to enjoy a free film under the stars, but a captioning debacle turned it into an embarrassment for Ryde Council in Australia.
Saturday night's screening of The Queen at North Ryde Oval became a comedy of errors thanks to subtitles either written by somebody with no comprehension of English or affected by an out-of-control spellcheck.
The film is about the death of Princess Diana and the efforts of the prime minister, Tony Blair, to help the royal family understand the public's grief and outrage.
When a character spoke about Mr Blair being "educated at Fettes", it appeared on screen as "educated the fattest". "Did you vote?" flashed up as "Dead in a boat?". The observation that "every newspaper proprietor has blood on his hands today" became "every newspaper proprietor has blown in his hands today".
When Prince Philip spoke of how "people removed their hats" as he drove past, it became "people removed their heads". "Buckingham Palace" appeared several times as "Burking in Paris".
Ally Woodford, the project manager for Media Access Australia, said the howlers would have been unbelievably frustrating for anyone relying on the captions. "I look at captioned DVDs pretty much every day and it's rare to see a DVD with those sorts of errors," she said.
It is unclear where the offending DVD came from. Outdoor Movies Australia, which staged the screening, said it was responsible only for the screen, projection and sound and directed inquiries to Ryde Council.
But the council declined to say where the DVD came from. Derek McCarthy, from the council's city promotions department, said that just before the screening it was discovered that the DVD provided by the distributor had captioning problems and another disc was sourced "to ensure the target group was not disappointed".
"The copy shown did have some spelling mistakes and interpretations of the script which affected the experience for the deaf community present," he said.
Ms Woodford said although some audience members had contacted the council to express their disappointment, they applauded the council for its initiative.
- Sydney Morning Herald