European Film Academy president and prominent filmmaker Agnieszka Holland launched a rallying call for the independent biz today during a Cannes Marche panel, and also cautioned about the influence of algorithm-driven streaming services.
Appearing virtually via video link, Holland said she was happy that the streamers were growing because of the finance and distribution opportunities they provide, but added that she was also “afraid” that platforms, which were growing pre-pandemic and have gained strength in this period, will “overgrow” theatrical cinema.
“They have become some kind of non-curated, big black hole where our more fragile and personal products can disappear and vanish,” she warned indie filmmakers. “The platforms are great but they’re not curated, they’re curated only by the algorithms. We need the real curators, the festivals, academies, critics. We need producers who will fight for a voice that is unique, rare, ambitious and challenging.”
“We have to ask ourselves how much our audience, societies, countries, ourselves, need cinema which has this very strong identity. I’m sure that we need it,” she asserted. “I’m sure that we cannot replace the experience of finding movies and TV on platforms with the strong experience of being together and watching in dark room, united by common emotions.”
Holland acknowledged how tricky it is to find financing, or distribution that gives a film a chance to reach audiences across Europe, outside of the platforms at the moment, but said that she believes audiences will come back to theaters once the pandemic recedes and that they need indie films “more than ever”.
Speaking at the same event, though in person in Cannes, powerhouse producer Martin Moszkowicz of Constantin Film took a slightly differing view.
“We’re not attacked by streamers, we’re attacked by a virus. The virus is the reason that theaters had to shut down. Streamers are not our enemies, we work with them regularly, they’re smart people,” he said. “I don’t want to contradict Mrs Holland, it’s all correct what she said, but it’s not all about algorithms, they are people who love what we are all about. I don’t see them as an enemy. There is lots of data that shows that people who use steamers a lot go to the movies a lot, if they can.”
“The situation is not good at the moment but it will get better. The virus is not going to go away. We will have to find a way to live with it,” he added, but noted that theaters are re-opening across Europe and, while various restrictions such as masks are a challenge, early numbers were “very encouraging”.