Film & TV

Netflix v Cannes: The Feud Continues

Picture Credit: The Verge and PikPng

By Georgia Austin

Undoubtedly the most prestigious film event across the globe, the Cannes Film Festival is back this year for its 75th anniversary. Netflix will not be attending. 

Over the last year, Netflix have moved from success to success across their original releases, featuring A-list actors like Benedict Cumberbatch and Leonardo DiCaprio. Their films Don’t Look Up, Tick, Tick…Boom, and The Power of the Dog have received widespread critical praise, earning an incredible 27 Academy Award nominations. 

So why is Netflix still excluded from Cannes?

The feud started back in 2017; Netflix’s last appearance at Cannes was with their films Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories. As a streaming service, Netflix release films straight onto their platform, which sparked animosity from French exhibitors calling for competition entries to be played in theatres first. In response Netflix pulled all of their films from the competition, refusing even to allow their films to be screened in the ‘Out of Competition’ category. 

Since 2017 Netflix have been making waves in France, opening new offices in Paris and broadening their connections with the French film community. Netflix also became the first streaming service to sign an agreement with France’s Culture Minister–Roselyne Bachelot–for new streaming guidelines. Under previous French industry customs, films had to be released for 36 months before television channels or streaming services could have access to them, but this new agreement has shortened the window to just 15 months. Despite these changes, Cannes still refuses to adapt its competition rules. 

Speaking at last years Cannes press conference, the Festival’s Delegate General Thierry Frémaux said:

We have a rule that films in Competition must come out in French cinemas. 

It’s not a very difficult rule but Netflix does not want to conform to this rule 

and doesn’t want to screen its films out of competition. We talk a lot – we’re 

friends––and I hope to convince them one day.

When asked about the impact of Cannes reputation due to the absence of Netflix, Frémaux asserted:

Give me a name of a young filmmaker discovered by Netflix with a film on

its platform––not a TV series. Our mission is to discover and put new names 

on the map. I am not sure Netflix or whoever can skip the Cannes Film Festival.

So what does this mean for Netflix?

This year’s Oscar nominations have seen a sharp increase in films with traditional theatrical releases, particularly in the major categories. For best picture, Belfast, Licorice Pizza, West Side Story and Nightmare Alley all had cinematic releases, whereas Netflix’s Don’t Look Up and The Power of the Dog did not. 

Cannes Film Festival has had a long-standing reputation for being an industry snob, and has never been far from controversy. The film industry is rapidly changing especially with Covid-19 and the temporary shutdown of cinemas affecting the way we consume films. While Cannes is trying to preserve its theatrical heritage, it must recognise the changing landscape of film today.

Cannes needs to learn to adapt. 

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