Netflix Officially Pulls Out of the Cannes Film Festival
In what has to be one of the pettiest cinematic feuds in recent memory, Netflix has decided to pull all of its titles from the Cannes film festival. The decision comes shortly after Cannes announced that it will no longer allow films without theatrical distribution (i.e. most Netflix movies) to play in competition in the fest. Although those films could, in theory, still play outside of competition, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos isn’t having it.
Speaking with Variety, Sarandos confirms that Netflix has returned fire by pulling its films from Cannes (although I suspect the festival will be just fine without them). The streaming studio was set to bring five films to the prestigious festival in France, including new titles from Green Room’s Jeremy Saulnier, Paul Greengrass and Alfonso Cuaron — the latter, Roma, could very well become an awards season contender.
The Netflix exec said the company wants their films “to be on fair ground with every other filmmaker.” Although they could play outside of competition, Sarandos believes it would be disrespectful to the films. “We loved the festival,” Sarandos says, referring to 2017, when Netflix premiered Bong Joon-ho’s Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz stories at Cannes — or, as he hilariously calls them, “the biggest films in the world last year.”
Sarandos believes that Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux “has chosen to celebrate distribution rather than the art of cinema.” He also doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that the rule change was instituted at the same time as the recent selfie-ban. “I don’t know what other advances in media Thierry would like to address,” Sarandos said.
Tensions began mounting between the two last year due to a law in France that prevents films from being made available on home platforms (like TV and Netflix) for 36 months after theatrical release. Some would argue that by doing so, France is more supportive of the cinematic arts than Netflix, a corporation that doesn’t give the majority of its films a theatrical run — a consumer-oriented strategy rather than an artist-oriented one. (A distinction worth noting: Fremaux’s title is “creative director,” while Sarandos is “chief content officer.”)
Regardless of which side you land on in this debate, it’s clear that the films and filmmakers are senselessly caught in the middle, and it seems unfair that great directors like Cuaron and Saulnier are being deprived the chance to screen their films at such a prestigious festival.