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The tumultuous relationship between Netflix and Cannes looks to be coming to an end. In a new interview with Variety, chief content officer Ted Sarandos revealed that the streaming giant won't be bringing its films to the festival this year. The decision comes after Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux implemented a new rule that forbids any films that haven’t been distributed in theaters in France from playing in competition. Netflix does have the option to show its forthcoming films out of competition, but Sarandos isn't interested.
“We want our films to be on fair ground with every other filmmaker,” Sarandos said. “There’s a risk in us going in this way and having our films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival. They’ve set the tone. I don’t think it would be good for us to be there.”
Last year, after Netflix made a huge splash at the festival with the two movies that played in competition, Bong Joon-ho’s Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories, both French theater owners and labor unions opposed the inclusion of films not made for theatrical consumption. While Netflix was open to the idea of its movies playing in France, a French law states that films cannot “appear in home platforms for 36 months after their theatrical release,” Variety reports.
In the past, Netflix has had day-and-date releases for films like Mudbound, Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father, and even Okja, and The Meyerowitz Stories. However, none of those films actually played in France.
While Sarandos won’t be in attendance at Cannes in May, he stated that Netflix “will have people there who are in the business of acquiring films, because many films will be there without distribution.” In 2017, Netflix acquired Mudbound, the festival's largest acquisition.
Sarandos does think Fremaux will change his mind. “I do have faith that Thierry shares my love for cinema and would be a champion of changing that when he realizes how punitive this rule is to filmmakers and film lovers,” he said.
Sarandos also couldn't help but take some parting shots at the iconic festival, which he clearly finds archaic. “We encourage Cannes to rejoin the world cinema community and welcome them back," he said. "Thierry had said in his comments when he announced his change that the history of the internet and the history of Cannes are two different things. Of course they are two different things. But we are choosing to be about the future of cinema. If Cannes is choosing to be stuck in the history of cinema, that’s fine.”