Row over Netflix films casts shadow over Cannes Film Festival
The 70th Cannes Film Festival opened yesterday under sunny Cote D'Azur skies and the high-wattage smiles of stars, including Will Smith and Marion Cotillard - but a brewing storm over Netflix's place at the world's most prestigious film festival continued to steal the spotlight.
Optimism is high at this year's festival, which features a line-up widely considered to be well-stocked with heavyweight filmmakers, including Todd Haynes, Sofia Coppola, Michael Haneke and Lynne Ramsay.
But controversy has dogged the preamble to Cannes, and its opening day.
For the first time, Cannes selected two Netflix releases - Bong Joon-ho's 'Okja' and Noah Baumbach's 'The Meyerowitz Stories' - for its Palme d'Or competition.
French theatres, which have strict rules regarding streaming service films, rebelled at the thought of a movie that will not play on the big screen winning the Palme d'Or - the biggest film award next to an Oscar. The festival relented and next year will not accept streaming-only films.
Pedro Almodovar, who is presiding over this year's competition jury, said: "I personally do not conceive, not only the Palme d'Or, any other prize being given to a film and not being able to see this film on a big screen."
The comment was striking, coming from the head of the jury that will decide the award, potentially meaning that the Joon-ho and Baumbach films are already out of luck. "The size of the screen should not be smaller than the chair you're sitting in. It should not be part of your everyday setting," said the Spanish filmmaker.
But Smith, a member of the jury that also includes Jessica Chastain, Paolo Sorrentino and Park Chan-wook, stuck up for Netflix. Later this year, Netflix will debut the $90m (€80m) fantasy thriller 'Bright', in which Smith stars.
"In my house, Netflix has been nothing but an absolute benefit," Smith said of his children's viewing habits. "They get to see films they absolutely wouldn't have seen. Netflix brings a great connectivity."