The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Netflix’s Cannes Premiere

Bong Joon-ho, left, and the cast of Okja.
Bong Joon-ho, left, and the cast of Okja pose for photographers at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Netflix sent shockwaves through the film world last month when the streaming service announced it would screen two of its newest original films at the 70th Cannes Film Festival. That announcement was met with resistance in the uptight world of the prestigious Cannes festival as judges and theater owners protested the move. The controversy grew so great that Cannes officially changed its rules in response to Netflix’s submissions, seemingly barring future screenings by streaming services. Nevertheless, Netflix pushed on with its Cannes debuts, both of which were met with mixed reactions by the crowds and critics and Cannes.

At Netflix’s first Cannes screening on May 19, the streaming giant showed off its upcoming science fiction film, Bong Joon-ho’s Okja starring Ahn Seo-hyun, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Tilda Swinton. In what has been described as a suspicious accident, the projectionist at the Okja premier made a technical error causing the film to be displayed in an improper aspect ratio for seven whole minutes as the crowd booed and jeered. Naturally, accusations were thrown around that the premiere was sabotaged in retaliation for Netflix skirting French copyright laws to get their films screened at Cannes. Nevertheless, critics at Cannes generally liked the film.

After Okja‘s troubled premier, Netflix showed off Noah Baumbach’s star-studded family drama The Meyerowitz Stories starring Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller. The film received a four-minute standing ovation and critics praised Sandler’s performance, calling it one of the best roles of his career.

Despite the warm welcome The Meyerowitz Stories received, the presence of Netflix at this year’s Cannes and the future of streaming services in the big screen film industry is still being debated. Like every major technological shift, there will be winners and losers as streaming usurps some of the prestige that movie theaters once enjoyed. Let’s just hope we, the consumers, come out on top for once.