Orson Welles’ daughter Beatrice has added her voice to the on-going dispute between Cannes and Netflix. The actress and designer, who also administers the Orson Welles estate, sent a letter to Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos on Sunday asking him to reconsider his plan not to send her father’s film The Other Side Of The Wind to the festival.
“I was very upset and troubled to read in the trade papers about the conflict with the Cannes Film Festival,” Beatrice said in an e-mail, portions of which were made available to Vanity Fair. “I have to speak out for my father.”
She went on to plead for Netflix and Cannes to make good their disagreement, relating such spats to those her father had with major studios. “I saw how the big production companies destroyed his life, his work, and in so doing a little bit of the man I loved so much,” she wrote. “I would so hate to see Netflix be yet another one of these companies…Please reconsider and let my father’s work be the movie that bridges the gap between Netflix and Cannes.”
The Citizen Kane director had a strong bond with Cannes, winning the festival’s then equivalent of the Palme d’Or and heading its competition jury. According to Vanity Fair Sarandos responded to Welles’ email, but, as we now know, didn’t see eye to eye with the festival.
Netflix financed the post-production on long-gestating The Other Side Of The Wind, and had planned to premiere the movie at Cannes ahead of its release on the streaming platform in the fall. But the streaming service ultimately decided to withdraw from Cannes after the festival stood by its decision not to allow movies in competition which don’t have a windowed theatrical release.
The movie, which Welles shot in the 1970s, tells the story of a director played by John Huston, who returns to Hollywood after years in Europe, with what he hopes will be a comeback film. Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux spoke yesterday of his “desire” for the film to screen in Cannes.
The film’s producer Filip Jan Rymsza has also had his say this week, taking to the movie’s official Indiegogo page to express his “disappointment” and “heartbreak” over the film’s omission from the Riviera festival. He said the team behind the film “fought long and hard to persuade Netflix” to allow the movie to screen at Cannes and that “everyone loses” by it not being there. “Granted, I’m conflicted in my emotions,” he continued. “There would be no The Other Side Of The Wind without Netflix, but that doesn’t lessen my disappointment and heartbreak.”
While there is a uniquely French context here, in many ways this whole issue also encapsulates film’s complex position at the crossroads of art and commerce. It also raises a question Welles himself [and many others have] loved to dispute: whose movie is it, anyway? While it is certainly sad festival goers will miss out on seeing an Orson Welles film in Cannes, filmmakers who want Netflix’s coin must also understand the service’s business prerogatives. It can’t always go both ways, even if many would like that.