The 70th Festival de Cannes commenced on May 17th, drawing in a record crowd of 45,000 film industry insiders to the little town on the French Riviera. The amount of people wasn’t the only record this year. If the Cannes Film Festival does anything, it definitely introduces disruptions to the industry. This year the festival welcomed two features from a streaming service. This is a landmark for the film festival but it didn’t happen without confrontation before the breakthrough.
Not only one Netflix original, but TWO premiered at the Grand Lumiere Theatre, drawing hoards of people in beautiful gowns and dashing tuxedos to witness the landmark premieres with A-list celebrities and legendary filmmakers. However, this may be the last year Netflix will have the option to be “En Competition” at the Cannes Film Festival if one of the entities doesn’t bend a little. The Festival has already changed the rules for next year, requiring each film to have a French theatrical release date to be considered for the prestigious Palme d’Or. Netflix does not want to release their original content for a theatrical run. To them, that is the antithesis of their service. Almodovar, the jury president, and Smith, a jury member, butted heads over the streaming service brightening up the historically boring jury press conference.
Almodovar insisted that great films require the great experience of being seen on the big screen and do not deserve to premier in people’s living rooms. Smith disagreed, defending Netflix for providing quality content that otherwise would not reach a massive audience, stating that Netflix has broadened the global cinematic comprehension of his children. Of course, this debate spurred similar ones in bars across town and in lines waiting for premiers. The fact of the matter is, even though Almodovar promised to be unbiased toward awarding the Netflix films, neither of their films were awarded anything, regardless of serious praise for Okja and the The Meyerowitz Stories from audiences and critics alike. Something to keep in mind is that Cannes is the springboard for the film industry. If Cannes starts rejecting content from streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, will other festivals and awards follow suit? I guess we’ll have to stay tuned… I have a feeling that this year’s Oscars will be a true test on whether or not streaming services will continue to be taken increasingly seriously in the film industry.
In all the controversy, innovation, and industry breakthroughs, the festival never quite loses its cheerful spirit. Although the landscape of the film and entertainment industry continues to change rapidly, one thing remains the same: the Cannes Film Festival is a chance to the international film community to come together around the love of the art, agree or disagree, and build international relationships and cross-continental bonds.
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