Will Smith, Pedro Almodovar open testy Cannes Film Festival

Candice Alexander
May 19, 2017

A row over Netflix, which has hailed Cannes's acceptance of two of its movies as proof of its new status as a major industry player, dominated the run-up to the festival.

On Tuesday, France's National Federation of Films Distributors said the Netflix films at Cannes were "endangering a whole ecosystem". Festival organisers tried to negotiate a compromise, with a "limited release" of the movies in France mooted.

French theaters, which have strict rules regarding streaming service films, rebelled at the thought of a movie that won't play on the big screen winning the Palme d'Or - the biggest award in film next to an Oscar, and to some, even more important.

The films will vie for the coveted Palme d'Or, which was past year won by British director and Cannes stalwart Ken Loach for his searing benefits drama I, Daniel Blake. The United States also has a strong presence with four films, while the remaining three come from the Far East, including two from South Korea ("Okja" by Bong Joon-ho and "The Day After" by Hong Sang-soo) and one from Japan ("Radiance" by Naomi Kawase, who is competing for the fifth time at Cannes). The actor once again returns to the French Riviera this year and this time around it is for his film Manto.

Netflix's movie "Okja" about a mysterious giant beast, starring Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal, is nonetheless among the most talked-about at Cannes, with Sofia Coppola's American Civil War thriller "The Beguiled" featuring Colin Farrell alongside Kidman.

There are 12 female-directed films in this year's 54-strong official selection, including three in competition.

Netflix has not responded to requests for comment but CEO Reed Hastings said on his Facebook page: "The establishment closing ranks against us".

The Cannes Film Festival has never had a juror quite like Will Smith, who strode into the Palais to roars of applause that brought to mind the premiere of one of his action movies (think "MIB in Paris").

"They go to the movie theater to be humbled in front of certain images and there's other films that they prefer to watch at home and there's really little to no cross".

Ted Sarandos, director of content for Netflix, said cinemas needed to adapt and that the festival should stick to "celebrating the arts", regardless of platforms.

"So they have to find a French exhibitor willing to do a day-and-date vanity release or bow out of future Competition involvement?" asked Charlie Lyne, the director of the documentaries Being Clueless and Fear Itself. "So we need to pay attention", festival director Thierry Fremaux said in an interview. And there's other films that they prefer to watch at home.

The Cannes Film Festival runs through May 28, when the Palme d'Or victor and other awards will be announced.

Other reports by VgToday

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