Netflix movies banned from competing at Cannes, artistic director explains decision

Should movies produced for Netflix and other streaming services be eligible to compete alongside theatrical films at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival?

That question generated controversy last year when festival organizers allowed Netflix to enter two of its films —Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories — into competition.

However, that won’t be happening at the 2018 festival, with Cannes Film Festival artistic director Theirry Fremaux telling The Hollywood Reporter that while Netflix films will be permitted to screen at Cannes, they won’t be eligible to compete in this year’s festival.

READ MORE: Cannes director Thierry Fremaux bans red carpet selfies at 2018 Film Festival

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“The Netflix people loved the red carpet and would like to be present with other films. But they understand that the intransigence of their own model is now the opposite of ours,” said Fremaux.

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As Fremaux explained, the controversial decision to allow Netflix to enter its films into competition was predicated on his hope that Netflix would secure theatrical releases for those films, but he was disappointed when that ultimately didn’t happen.

“Last year, when we selected these two films, I thought I could convince Netflix to release them in cinemas,” he said. “I was presumptuous, they refused.”

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Fremaux admitted that the new digital landscape is complicating the process of what should and shouldn’t be eligible to compete for the prestigious Palme d’Or.

“We have to take into account the existence of these powerful new players: Amazon, Netflix and maybe soon Apple,” he said. “We’ll defend the image of a risk-prone festival, questioning the cinema, and we must be at the table every year.”

However, he insists there must be a dividing line in place between a film made to be shown in a cinema and one made to stream on the Internet, which Fremaux describes as “hybrids” that are neither TV nor film but something in between. “Cinema [still] triumphs everywhere even in this golden age of series,” he said. “The history of cinema and the history of the internet are two different things.”

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