Books, Film & TV Friday, May 19th Words by: Jo Comino, pictures by: Herefordshire Live

The Herefordshire view on a Netflix-Cannes Controversy

Books, Film & TV Friday, May 19th

The Herefordshire view on a Netflix-Cannes Controversy

It opened on Wednesday, the film industry’s biggest, most prestigious event: Cannes Film Festival. Word of mouth from the press screenings reverberate through the rest of the year, colouring how new movies will be received all over the world.

This year is different. A spat between streaming giant Netflix and the Cannes establishment has caused a blink in the Croisette’s flashing lights and the red carpets to go pale.

Two films chosen for the Official Competition have been funded by Netflix: Okja, from South Korea’s Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer), with Tilda Swinton, and The Meyerowitz Stories, starring Adam Sandler and Emma Thompson, directed by US indie Noah Baumbach. These films are not scheduled to screen in cinemas, but will be streamed directly by Netflix, in the case of Okja, as early as June.

Cannes’ organisers have reacted strongly, changing competition rules so that from next year no film that is not committed to French theatrical release can qualify.  


#Photocall #Cannes2017 Jury Longs Métrages / Feature Films Jury Will Smith, Jessica Chastain & Pedro Almodóvar © L. VENANCE / AFP

A post shared by Festival de Cannes (@festivaldecannes) on

Herefordshire may fall a little short on glitz, glamour and sun-drench but - home to Borderlines Film Festival, Flicks in the Sticks and one independent cinema - it sure does like its movies. What’s the impact of all this? Windows of opportunity to catch non-mainstream films at the cinema can be slim in a rural area.

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Above: movie-goers make use of sticky notes to showcase their favourite films screened during Borderlines Film Festival, February 2017. Pic via Flickr.

The President of this year’s Cannes jury, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, has stated forcefully that the Festival should be about cinema, understanding "the hypnosis of the large screen for the viewer."

The Courtyard’s Toki Allison agrees: "Watching a film in an auditorium and having that shared experience, marvelling at those moving images on the big screen is not the same as watching on your TV or handheld device. It's just not."

Alan Trow who runs Hay’s small, but perfectly-formed Booths Bookshop Cinema says: "We have to fight to keep the cinema experience going. Our core audience here in Hay is loyal and well informed but largely over 55. The multitude of internet platforms are more popular with the young."

He cites "the other ‘controversial’ element in local cinema", namely "the rapid growth and popularity of satellite theatre broadcasts squeezing out independent movies from single screen cinemas."

So, the dilemma is that Netflix are championing two indie film-makers, which should be applauded. But according to French law, Okja cannot legally be streamed until 2020.

"I love going to the movies", says Borderlines regular Stephen Hopkins, "but it’s a fact that movies have always mutated."

Flicks in the Sticks director Ian Kerry remembers the groundless fears that DVDs would spell the death of cinema, “I don't have any worries about Netflix and their films. The passion for watching films on a big screen with friends in your own community will win out.”

The last word goes to Toki: "Cinema providers need to be more inventive… while communicating the power of that shared, big-screen experience… I think young audiences deserve that effort.

"I feel like there must be a way for cinema and VOD to co-exist in a better way - I'm just not sure what that is yet!"

A village hall taking out Netflix membership and screening to a private audience? Watch this space.

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