Cannes: Pedro Almodovar, Will Smith Offer Contrasting Views on Netflix Controversy


The Cannes Film Festival is one of the most prestigious and formal events in the world, but this year the festival is getting a breath of fresh air thanks to one special jury member, box office maverick Will Smith.

His children, Jaden and Willow Smith, "go to the movies twice a week and they watch Netflix".

Spanish director Almodovar told reporters at Cannes that it would be "an enormous paradox if the Palme d'Or went to a film that can not be seen in cinemas". "The Cannes Film Festival is the ultimate prestige in cinema".

The Cannes festival, which takes place every year on the French Riviera, has changed a lot over the years.

"Cannes is a film festival in theatres, and, for the territory of France, we would like to have all the films competing in Cannes available in theatres", festival director Thierry Fremaux told Reuters in an interview. Festival organisers tried to negotiate a compromise, with a "limited release" of the movies in France mooted.

After an outcry from French theater organizers announced last week that, beginning next year, films without intentions of French theatrical release will be ineligible for Cannes' Palme d'Or competition.

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The films will vie for the coveted Palme d'Or, which was a year ago won by British director and Cannes stalwart Ken Loach for his searing benefits drama I, Daniel Blake.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings responded to that rule change on Facebook. "You must be small and humble in front of the image that's here". Nowhere has Netflix's arrival been received more warily than at Cannes, a staunch guardian of cinema, and in France, the birthplace of the art form.

He said: "I have a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old and a 24-year-old at home". Because streaming services (both Netflix and Amazon) are becoming increasingly important distributors and even producers of good movies (Martin Scorsese's next feature, "The Irishman", is a Netflix production), the main effect of this rule will only be to further weaken the festival's lineup. And there's other films that they prefer to watch at home. Festival programmers thought "they could get away with showing Netflix movies", he said.

Hotly-anticipated films by directors including Sofia Coppola and Michael Haneke are set to screen as the likes of Uma Thurman, Julianne Moore, Bella Hadid and Lily-Rose Depp walk the red carpet at screenings and premieres over the course of 12 days. However, one actor that came to their defense was Will Smith, who is a juror at the festival this year.

With France still under a state of emergency due to a raft of Islamist attacks, Cannes 2017 - the festival's 70th outing - will be under tighter security than ever, but that will not dampen spirits, according to the Hollywood Reporter's Scott Roxborough.