Cannes Netflix row simmers again

Five titles under “threat" as programme launch nears

by Richard Mowe

Cannes contender (or not?) - Anders Danielsen Lie plays the terrorist Anders Breivik  in Paul Greengrass’s Norway, about the killing of 77 people by the far-right extremist
Cannes contender (or not?) - Anders Danielsen Lie plays the terrorist Anders Breivik in Paul Greengrass’s Norway, about the killing of 77 people by the far-right extremist Photo: Nordic Film
The Cannes Film Festival’s ongoing skirmish with the streaming giant Netflix continues apace with only days to go before the announcement of the Festival’s official programme on Thursday (April 12).

Thierry Frémaux, the Festival’s director, already had banned any titles in the official Competition and Un Certain Regard sections that would not have a cinema release (at least in France).

According to trade publication The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix had been due to premiere five films at this year’s festival, including, it has been suggested, Paul Greengrass’s Norway (about the 2011 terrorist attack) and Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. Now, allegedly, Netflix has threatened to pull all the titles from the festival in response to the diktat from the organisers. Other titles are believed to be Jeremy Saulnier’s Hold The Dark, Orson Welles’s The Other Side Of The Wind (the director’s last unfinished title), and Morgan Neville’s documentary They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, about Welles.

Last year, trouble brewed over Okja's inclusion in competition
Last year, trouble brewed over Okja's inclusion in competition
Last year, the controversy arose with the inclusion of two titles in the official Competition, Okja by director Bong Joon-ho with Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal and The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected, by Noah Baumbach and with Dustin Hoffman, Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller, both financed by Netflix. French cinema owners protested that the films should be given a cinema release before airing on the streaming site.

The new rules for the 2018 edition of the ffestival mean that all films in the official Competition must be given a French theatrical release.

Last year's statement said: “The Festival de Cannes is aware of the anxiety aroused by the absence of the release in theatres of those films in France.

“The Festival de Cannes asked Netflix in vain to accept that these two films could reach the audience of French movie theatres and not only its subscribers. Hence the Festival regrets that no agreement has been reached.The Festival is pleased to welcome a new operator which has decided to invest in cinema but wants to reiterate its support to the traditional mode of exhibition of cinema in France and in the world.

“Consequently, and after consulting its members of the board, the festival has decided to adapt its rules to this unseen situation until now: any film that wishes to compete in Competition at Cannes will have to commit itself to being distributed in French movie theatres. This new measure will apply from the 2018 edition of the Festival International du Film de Cannes onwards.”

Netflix chief Ted Sarandos is quoted as saying that the new policy made the prospect of returning to Cannes “less attractive” but the company had five films in prospect for this year’s event with filmmakers planning to attend. The situation is said to be “fluid,” and a final decision will not be made until Frémaux announces the official line-up on Thursday.

The Festival had faced a similar dilemma and protests in 2009 after selecting Olivier Assayas’s mini-series Carlos for the competition line-up but climbed down and put in the Out of Competition section. This might be an option to resolve any problems but filmmakers regard such status as a lesser honour than being included to compete for prizes including the Palme d’Or.

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