Come May, two things will be missing from this year’s Cannes Film Festival: films from streaming services and red-carpet selfies.
In an exclusive interview with French magazine Le Film Français, festival director Thierry Fremaux announced changes to the prestigious event, which is in its 71st year and will run from May 8-19.
For starters, Fremaux declared that films from Netflix and other streaming services would not be eligible to compete for the Palme d’Or, the highest prize awarded at the film festival.
Last year, two Netflix films — Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” and Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories” — were allowed in the competition, a decision that Fremaux said “created an enormous controversy that has echoed around the globe.”
The disagreement stemmed from conflict between Netflix wanting to debut films on its streaming service and a French law that has specific requirements for when films can move from theaters to other platforms like video-on-demand, television and streaming.
“Last year, when we selected these two films, I thought I could convince Netflix to release them in theaters,” Fremaux said. “I was presumptuous: They refused.”
Instead, Netflix tried to get temporary permits to screen the films for less than a week in France so the films could be seen in theaters and online at the same time. But this move clashed with the French law, which mandates a 36-month delay between a movie’s theatrical release and streaming date.
Netflix’s attempt to skirt the law angered some members of the French film industry. Christophe Tardieu, director of the National Cinema Center, a state entity that coordinates public financing of films, told the New York Times last year that Netflix is “the perfect representation of American cultural imperialism.”
In response to the widespread backlash, Cannes has changed its rules to require future competition films to commit to distribution in French movie theaters. Other films still can be shown at the festival, Fremaux pointed out, just not in the competitive categories.
In the interview with Le Film Français, Fremaux made another announcement that could send many fans — and even some celebrities — into a full-blown panic: no selfies allowed on the red carpet.
Selfies have been a thorn in the side of the festival’s leaders for years, with Fremaux lambasting them as “ridiculous and grotesque.”
“At the top of the red carpet, the pettiness and the hold-up caused by the untimely disorder created by taking selfies hurts the quality of the climbing of the steps,” he said. “And it does the same to the festival as a whole.”