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 on Friday, festival director Thierry Fremaux announced changes to the prestigious event, which is in its 71st year and will run from May 8 to 19.
Shaking things up, 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 law known as French cultural exception, which 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 told Le Film Français. “I was presumptuous: They refused.”
For the 2017 festival, Netflix tried to get temporary permits to screen the films for less than a week in France, allowing for a day-and-date release so the films could be seen in theaters and online at the same time, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
However, this move clashed with the French law, which mandates a 36-month delay between a movie’s theatrical release and streaming date, the New York Times reported. The rule also requires a percentage of all box office, DVD, video-on-demand, television and streaming revenue to be pooled to fund homegrown films and help finance foreign films, according to the New York Times.
“The festival asked Netflix in vain to accept that these two films could reach the audience of French movie theaters and not only its subscribers,” according to a statement from the festival to the New York Times in 2017. “Hence the Festival regrets that no agreement has been reached.”
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.”
“I deplore Netflix’s attitude in this affair, which showed total intransigence and refusing to understand and accept how the French cultural exception works,” Tardieu said.
In response to the widespread backlash, Cannes announced last year that it would change its rules to require future competition films to commit to distribution in French movie theaters, the New York Times reported.
The rule change did not apply to “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories,” but neither film won any awards, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Although the new rule effectively bans Netflix and other streaming services from entering their films in the competition, Fremaux said the films can still be selected to be shown at the festival.
“The people from Netflix loved the red carpet and would love to present us their other films,” Fremaux told Le Film Français. “But they understood that their intransigence about the proper format now clashes with ours.”
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,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.
By prohibiting selfies on the red carpet, Fremaux may finally get the reprieve he’s been hoping for.
Fremaux told Le Film Français that the decision to ban selfies was jointly made by him and the festival’s president, Pierre Lescure.
“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,” Fremaux said. “… And it does the same to the festival as a whole.”
Derek Hawkins contributed to this story.