Netflix has been waging war at Cannes, the world’s most prestigious film festival, and now Will Smith has come to the streaming giant’s defence.
When Netflix got two films into Cannes this year, Boon Joon-Ho’s “Ojka” and Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories,” it seemed like a big step forward for the company, which has repeatedly clashed with movie theatres over its commitment to make movies available online the same day they appear in theatres.
But that small victory came crashing back when Cannes decided to tweak its competition rules after this year as a result of the backlash toward the Netflix titles. Going forward, films will only qualify if they have a theatrical release in France (it’s unclear whether those two titles will).
“The establishment closing ranks against us,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote on Facebook. “See Okja on Netflix June 28th. Amazing film that theatre chains want to block us from entering into Cannes film festival competition.”
In a Cannes jury press conference Wednesday, legendary director Pedro Almodovar seemed to come down against Netflix. “I personally do not conceive, not only the Palme d’Or, any other prize being given to a film and not being able to see this film on a big screen,” Almodovar said, according to Variety. “All this doesn’t mean I’m not open or don’t celebrate the new technologies. I do.”
But Will Smith, who was also on the panel, defended Netflix shortly after. My kids “go to the movies twice a week and they watch Netflix,” Smith said. “There’s very little cross between going to the cinema and watching what they watch on Netflix in my home.”
Smith described Netflix in his home as an “absolute benefit.” Why? “[My children] get to see films they absolutely wouldn’t have seen. Netflix brings a great connectivity. There are movies that are not on a screen within 8,000 miles of them. They get to find those artists.”
Smith isn’t the most unbiased party, however. Netflix reportedly shelled out more than $US90 million for an upcoming Will Smith blockbuster “Bright.” The movie is a cop thriller set in a world that’s similar to ours in time period but contains fantasy creatures like orcs and elves.
Here’s the teaser trailer, which starts out looking like a typical cop movie set in Los Angeles and then — BOOM — there’s an orc carrying a shotgun:
Additional reporting by Jason Guerrasio.