Netflix vs Cinema: The Latest Cannes Drama

The backlash at Cannes Film Festival towards Netflix has caused a whole lot of debate about the validity of films made by the streaming service. 

Cannes Film Festival. Photo credit: Hollywood Reporter

During the screening for Okja, a Netflix original feature film, the audience boo-ed at the sight of the Netflix logo. This, in-turn, caused much debate about which films should be allowed to show at these prestigious film festivals and be up for any awards.

It was then announced that any film that wants to be in competition at Cannes must have a theatrical release in France. With a lot of big name actors/ actresses like Tilda Swinton, Will Smith and Brad Pitt making the move to Netflix films to satisfy their fans, a lot of great films will start to miss out on these momentous occasions.

The questions is – why all the debate? Netflix isn’t a pirating site. Everyone still gets paid and film makers and stars aren’t losing any revenue. The only difference between these films being produced by Netflix and the ones that are lucky enough to have air time on the big screen is the distribution method. It’s time to face the fact that fewer people are going to the cinema as they have that opportunity to watch something from the comfort of their own home.

Screenshot of independent films on Netflix.

As independent films are becoming harder and harder to find at actual cinemas, Netflix is acting as a life raft for these less sought after, but increasingly popular films. Streaming these films through Netflix, which is still a paid subscription service, allows audiences to find films that fit into particular niches. Otherwise, they would have to travel to bigger cities or attend film festivals to see these films as they aren’t recognised in more regional areas.

There was outrage at Cannes when it was discovered that two Netflix original films were being considered for the Palme D’Or; one of cinema’s most prestigious awards. The president for the Cannes Film Festival jury, Pedro Almodóvar, all but ruled the films out of the running before they had even premiered. 

Will Smith at the Jury Press Conference – 70th Cannes Film Festival. Photo credit: Variety

Will Smith, Netflix actor and CFF jury member, straight up disagreed with the president’s views. He insisted that the streaming service had ‘absolutely no effect’ on people who go to the cinema and that the two forms should be able to co-exist. He asked ‘Why does it have to be one or the other?’

Almodóvar countered by stating that while digital platforms are an enriching and positive experience, they shouldn’t take the place of traditional cinemas. “You must feel small and humble in front of the image that is here to capture you,” he added. “The size should not be smaller than the chair on which you are sitting and should not be part of your everyday setting.”

With streaming services taking control over more and more projects, this seems like a debate that’s only just begun.