Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux has responded to Netflix’s announcement that it will not screen films at the 2018 festival. Addressing press during the Cannes lineup announcement, Frémaux explained the festival is still open to talking with Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and Reed Hastings and presenting their films out of competition.
“Any film in competition should be open to distribution in theaters,” Frémaux said, reiterating the festival’s policy that only films with French theatrical distribution are allowed to compete for the Palme d’Or. The rule prevents Netflix films from premiering in competition, but it does allow the streaming company to present films out of competition.
“We made offers for two films by Netflix this year, one out of competition and one in competition,” Frémaux confirmed. “Netflix did not wish to release the [competition title] in theaters. According to the rule, this film will not be in competition. The film could not be in competition. Films must be open to the possibility of being distributed in cinemas. It’s too bad.”
Frémaux said publicly that the Netflix film Cannes wanted to debut out of competition was “The Other Side of the Wind,” the final film from Orson Welles. Netflix helped fund the completion of the movie, and Cannes’ rule would not have prohibited it from screening at the festival.
“Welles was president of the jury and of course had the Palme d’Or. His place was here,” Frémaux said. “I saw the film, we all had a desire to see this film. It’s not an accident that Netflix is the rights holder of the film, though. They wanted to do it. They know and love cinema, but we don’t have the same position. Last year when we had them on the red carpet we were very criticized. This year they won’t be on the red carpet and we’ll be criticized.”
Frémaux concluded by saying “Netflix is welcome in Cannes” and that “we have an ongoing debate.”
“We want to tell Ted [Sarandos] and Reed [Hastings] and Scott [Stuber] to come, let’s keep talking,” Cannes executive Pierre Lescure added about Welles’ film. “We regret it because it was a lovely gesture of cinema undertaken by Netflix and now they block it. It would have been a nice gesture but they didn’t want to do it. The debate is still open.”
The conversation around “The Other Side of the Wind” has taken center stage since Netflix announced it was banning its movies since Welles’ film could have still premiered at Cannes under the new rules. Both Welles’ daughter and the film’s producer Filip Jan Rymsza have released statements expressing heartbreak over Netflix’s decision to remove the film from Cannes and asking Netflix to reconsider the choice.
The Cannes Film Festival runs May 8 – 19.