After the global press suffered long lines and an even slower metal-detector check yesterday morning at Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck, two movies today experienced major technical issues: Netflix’s Okja in competition, and the Chinese film Goddesses In The Flames of War, a market title.
The Cannes Film Festival promptly issued a statement this morning, taking full responsibility for the Okja snafu (see below). The Bong Joon Ho-directed movie has been much subject of controversy here given it’s the first time a streaming service has been included in competition.
At its press screening today, the movie was delayed by a further 15 minutes after its aspect ratio was off with a portion of the image on the ceiling. Both times Okja began to screen, it was met with loud booing from what is led to be the French contingent in the audience, because of the technical disruptions.
One observer said, “You can’t guarantee that the booing will occur at the premiere tonight.” Cannes press screenings have a history of drawing notoriously vocal crowds.
The Netflix logo was met largely with cheers when it first hit the screen, but the problems taxed the audience that got up early only to have the experience disrupted. The crowd seemed more forgiving by the end credits, as boos turned to cheers for the film about a girl who protects a rare animal.
Meanwhile, a Goddesses In The Flames of War screening was canceled due to technical issues, leading some to wonder — what’s going on here at Cannes? This is clearly an embarrassment for the festival, particularly Okja since it’s so high profile.
Netflix also has Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories in competition. Both Okja and Meyerowitz Stories aren’t receiving a theatrical release, and that’s hard for some here at the fest to swallow: At the jury press conference, Pedro Almodovar and Will Smith were divided over the future of cinema, particularly on a small screen.
After booking Okja and Meyerowitz Stories, Cannes made a new rule that its competition films must have a traditional theatrical release in France after the French Cinema Federation (FNCF) objected to the inclusion of two Netflix films in the fest’s official lineup. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings responded on Facebook, saying: “The establishment closing ranks against us.”
Even though Amazon Studios is known to be a streaming service — they were here last year with Cafe Society and Neon Demon, and here again this year with Wonderstruck and You Were Never Really Here — the fact is the label is a loyal practitioner of theatrical windows. Said Haynes yesterday at the Wonderstruck press conference: “The film division at Amazon is made up of true cineastes who love movies and really want to try and provide opportunity for independent film visions to find their footing in a vastly shifting market.”
Here’s Cannes’ response to the Okja misfire this morning:
“A technical incident disrupted the beginning of the screening of Bong Joon ho’s film, Okja, which was shown this morning at a press screening at the Lumière Auditorium. The session was interrupted for a few minutes but was then able to carry on as normal.
This incident was entirely the responsibility of the Festival’s technical service, which offers its apologies to the director, his teams, the producers and the audience at the showing.”