Almodóvar roots for the big screen

Cannes jury president weighs in to Netflix row.

by Richard Mowe

Cannes jury duty for (from left) Park Chan-Wook, Maren Ade, Will Smith, Agnès Jaoui, Pedro Amodóvar, Jessica Chastain and Paolo Sorrentino.
Cannes jury duty for (from left) Park Chan-Wook, Maren Ade, Will Smith, Agnès Jaoui, Pedro Amodóvar, Jessica Chastain and Paolo Sorrentino. Photo: Richard Mowe

The president of the Cannes Film Festival jury, Pedro Almodóvar, who has never been one to shirk controversy, today (17 May) weighed in to the debate about the place of Netflix in film festivals if the films do not get a subsequent release in cinemas.

This year the Festival, which has two titles from the streaming platform in the official selection (Bong Joon-Ho’s Okja in competition and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories out of competition), has decreed that from next year films must be able to be seen in cinemas. Netflix decided that these two titles would not find a place on cinema screens outside the festival shows and would not budge on their decision.

Jury president Pedro Almodóvar
Jury president Pedro Almodóvar Photo: Richard Mowe

The issue had so incensed Almodóvar (a previous Palme d’Or winner) that he had prepared a statement in case the topic was raised at the traditional gathering of the jury and the media on the first day of the Festival.

He said: "Digital platforms are a new way of offering words and images, which in itself are enriching. But these platforms should not take the place of existing forms like the movie theatres. They should under no circumstances change the offer for spectators. The only solution I think is that the new platforms accept and obey the existing rules that are already adopted and respected by the existing networks.

"I personally don’t perceive the Palme d’Or ought to be given to a film that is then not seen on the big screen. All this doesn’t mean that I am not open or celebrate new technologies and opportunities, but [as long as] I'm alive I’ll be fighting for the capacity of hypnosis of the large screen for the viewer."

He added that the size of the screen should not be smaller than the chair on which you are sitting. “It should not be part of your everyday setting. You must feel small and humble in front of the image that’s here.”

Will Smith
Will Smith Photo: Richard Mowe

A gung-ho Will Smith, however, offered another perspective, suggesting that his sons (aged 16, 18 and 24) watch Netflix but also go to the cinema at least twice a week. “In my house Netflix has been nothing but a benefit because they watch films they would not otherwise have seen. It has broadened their cinematic horizons,” said Smith, who has a new film, the blockbuster Bright (a cop thriller) in a deal with … Netflix.

Jessica Chastain and Paolo Sorrentino are also on the jury, alongside German director Maren Ade (Toni Erdmann), South Korean director Park Chan-wook (The Handmaiden), Chinese star Fan Bingbing (Iron Man 3), French actress Agnes Jaoui (The Taste of Others) and Oscar-winning composer Gabriel Yared (The English Patient) but they declined to become embroiled in the controversy.

Chastain noted that she would keep herself aloof from any influences during her period of duty - even to the extent of telling her friends not to call for the next ten days. Smith gave assurances that he too would be taking it all very seriously by “going to bed every night so I can watch wide awake and focused.” He could barely contain his excitement at the idea of watching three films a day - something he had not done since he was 14.

The results of the jury’s deliberations will be revealed on the closing night of the festival on May 28.

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