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Netflix boycotts Cannes film festival after being debarred from competition section

This is about the future of cinema, the streaming giant said.

Netflix has officially pulled out of the Cannes film festival this year, Variety reported. The decision comes after the event’s director, Thierry Fremaux, announced that productions by streaming platforms will not be entered in the competition section. The festival will be held from May 8-19.

The new rule was instituted after the row over the inclusion of Netflix films Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories at the prestigious festival last year. Following protests by French film unions and directors, Fremaux announced a rule banning films that do not have a French theatrical release from the competition section. Netflix could still screen its films outside the competition section, but decided not to.

“We want our films to be on fair ground with every other filmmaker,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos told Variety. “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.”

After announcing the new rule, Fremaux had told the Hollywood Reporter that during last year’s festival, he had hoped to convince Netflix to release the two films theatrically, but they did not agree. “I was presumptuous, they refused,” he said.

The streaming platform’s ideology was incompatible with the festival’s goals, he had also said. “The Netflix people loved the red carpet and would like to be present with other films,” he said. “But they understand that intransigence of their own model is now the opposite of ours.”

Sarandos told Variety on Wednesday that Netflix “loved” the Cannes film festival, but lamented the change in the rules. “We loved the festival. We love the experience for our filmmakers and for film lovers. It’s just that the festival has chosen to celebrate distribution rather than the art of cinema. We are 100% about the art of cinema. And by the way, every other festival in the world is too,” he said.

Sarandos added, “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.”

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