CANNES, May 18 ― Cannes jury chief Pedro Almodovar fired a warning shot at streaming giant Netflix yesterday, declaring that the film that wins the festival's top prize should be shown in cinemas.
The online giant has refused to release its two movies in the running for the Palme d'Or to French theatres, sparking a huge row that threatens to overshadow the world's top film festival, which officially kicks off its 70th birthday edition late yesterday.
Spanish director Almodovar, who heads a jury that includes Hollywood stars Will Smith and Jessica Chastain, took a tough line with Netflix, telling reporters it would be “an enormous paradox if the Palme d'Or went to a film that cannot be seen in cinemas”.
“The only solution I think is that the new platforms accept and obey the existing rules,” he added.
He said he could not imagine “the Palme d'Or nor any other prize being given to a film, and then not being able to see that film on a large screen”.
Many read his statement as indicating that neither of Netflix's highly touted films ― Okja starring Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal, nor The Meyerowitz Stories with Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller ― would win anything.
But Almodovar may not have his way on the jury.
Actor Smith, who was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of boxer Muhammad Ali, launched a spirited defence of Netflix, saying it “broadens my children's cinematic global comprehension”.
“In my house Netflix has been nothing but an absolute benefit because they get to watch films that they never would have even seen,” he added.
Last week festival organisers changed the rules to effectively ban Netflix films in future, insisting that movies in competition must be shown on the big screen in France.
Netflix, however, has refused to back down, with boss Reed Hastings claiming that “the establishment is closing ranks against us”.
The row centres on strict rules that restrict subscription services from online streaming in France until three years after a movie goes on general release.
The battle ― which has divided film-makers ― has prompted French directors and producers to appeal to their government to change the rules.
A-listers including Nicole Kidman, Clint Eastwood and Chinese actress Fan Bingbing (X-Men) have jetted into Cannes amid “unprecedented” tight security in the glitzy Mediterranean resort.
Italian actress Monica Bellucci will host the gala opening ceremony Wednesday night, with French drama Ismael's Ghosts, starring Marion Cotillard, as the opening film.
Sources close to the festival said Iranian Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi and actress Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Hollywood star Johnny Depp, would be the surprise guests to officially open the event.
Stars are arriving under tighter security than in previous years, 10 months after the truck attack in nearby Nice that killed 86 people.
Concrete barriers ― in the form of giant flower pots ― have been set up to try to block a similar assault, and snipers have been positioned above sensitive sites.
Patrick Mairesse, a top regional security official, said the goal was to be as “invisible as possible, to cause as little nuisance as possible ― so the party can stay a party”.
Elsewhere at the festival yesterday, veteran British actress Vanessa Redgrave unveiled her directorial debut ― Sea Sorrow, a documentary about Europe's migrant crisis.
Kidman, however, is the undisputed queen of this year's Cannes, starring in three movies as well as the TV series Top of the Lake, which is getting a special screening.
Others in the running for top honours include Happy End, another film set against the backdrop of the migrant crisis by Amour director Michael Haneke, who is seeking a record-breaking third Palme d'Or.
Another highlight will be Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu showcasing a virtual reality project that allows the viewer to walk in the footsteps of refugees. ― AFP-Relaxnews