Steaming Goliath Netflix is set to be in the news again after a series of high-profile incidents last year. Back in 2017, traditionalists were outraged when two Netflix films were screened as part of the festival despite not having full theatrical releases in France (or pretty much anywhere, for that matter).
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Okja (2017) and The Meyerowitz Stories (2017) were greeted with boos from the assembled masses and kicked off a long-running feud that has continued to this day.
Theatre owners were understandably annoyed by the move that saw Netflix bypass cinemas and release their content online almost immediately. Celebrities attending Cannes also felt the need to get involved, with Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar stating that all films should be seen on the big screen, while Will Smith insisted on the opposite.
This year, Netflix pulled out of Cannes entirely after the festival insisted that film premieres receive French theatrical distribution.
However, despite its absence, the streaming service appears to have pulled off yet another coup d’etat. Rather than premiering its own films at the festival, it has lined up big-money deals for the competition films that don’t have international distribution deals in place.
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According to reports in Variety, and in a move that would cause more aggravation, the company is set to buy the opening film of the festival, Everybody Knows (2018). Exploiting this loophole is set to trigger another bout of serious clashes between cinema’s old and new worlds.
In a move that is certain to win universal praise, festival organisers have established a ban on stars taking red-carpet selfies. Once the scourge of almost every Cannes attendee, those who insist on documenting their trip down the press line could now face being turned away by the time they reach the end of the carpet.
A few feathers will be ruffled among journalists and critics this year, as Cannes has decided to eliminate press screenings, which used to take place prior to the world premieres at the festival. The move will maintain the lustre of Cannes for most, but surely the lack of reviews and coverage will set alarm bells ringing?
The most notable, and serious, issue at Cannes is still the aftermath of the sexual harassment scandals that have engulfed the industry in recent months. This year’s festival will be the first held since stories surrounding Harvey Weinstein (and many others) have come to light. Many attending will face tricky questions of their own, with a number of guests on the Cannes Jury having previously worked with the Hollywood mogul, as well as directors such as Roman Polanski and Woody Allen. French authorities, in unison with the festival, are addressing the issue head on, launching a helpline through which people can report sexual harassment.
Of the films themselves, there are a number of ongoing issues that are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.
Kenyan drama Rafiki (2018) has been pulled from theatres in Africa over its plot line, which features two women falling in love, and the long-awaited debut of Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018) is in danger of missing its closing-night slot due to an ongoing legal dispute with former backers and investors over ownership of the film rights.
Plus, Iranian director Jafar Panahi is currently banned from travelling abroad and therefore unable to attend Cannes, despite his film being in competition. Similarly, Russian filmmaker and theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov finds himself under house arrest in his native country.
There’s so much going on at this year’s festival that Lars Von Trier and his violent serial-killer flick The House that Jack Built (2018) is receiving only minimal coverage. And this is the man who was banned from the festival for several years after claiming to “understand” and “sympathise with” Adolf Hitler at Cannes 2011…