Netflix Pulls Out of 2018 Cannes Film Festival Following Competition Ban Controversy

Ted Sarandos confirms Netflix will not even be screening films out of competition at Cannes this year.

Netflix is officially removing itself from the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Ted Sarandos, the streaming giant’s Chief Content Officer, confirmed the plan to Variety, noting that Netflix had no choice but to pull out of the festival after Cannes’ decision to implement a rule banning films without French theatrical distribution from competing. The rule meant Netflix could still premiere movies out of competition, but Sarandos says that wouldn’t make sense.

“We want our films to be on fair ground with every other filmmaker,” Sarandos said. “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.”

“I don’t think there would be any reason to go out of competition,” Sarandos continued. “The rule was implicitly about Netflix, and Thierry [Frémaux] made it explicitly about Netflix when he announced the rule.”

Sarandos criticized Cannes artistic director Frémaux’s decision to only allow films with French distribution to compete at the festival, calling it “completely contrary to the spirit of any film festival in the world.”

“Film festivals are to help films get discovered so they can get distribution. Under those rules, we could not release our films day-and-date to the world like we’ve released nearly 100 films over the last couples of years,” Sarandos said. “And if we did that, we’d have to hold back that film from French subscribers for three years under French law. Therefore, our films they are not qualified for the Cannes Film Festival competition.”

Netflix competed for the Palme d’Or in 2017 with “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories,” but their placement in competition caused controversy. Pedro Almodóvar, who was serving as the jury president, said films not released in theaters shouldn’t be considered for the Palme d’Or.

As previously reported, Netflix films in consideration for Cannes 2018 included Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” Jeremy Saulnier’s “Hold the Dark,” Paul Greengrass’ “Norway,” Orson Welles’ long-lost “The Other Side of the Wind,” and Morgan Neville’s Welles documentary “They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead.” As recently as last Saturday, Frémaux told IndieWire that Cannes was still negotiating with Netflix. “We’re still talking,” he said. “They are still welcome.”

Filmmakers defending Netflix include Saulnier, who brought both “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room” to Cannes in the past. “Who the hell wants to be booed at the first presentational credit of your film, especially when it’s disparaging the entity that made the film possible in the first place?” Saulnier told IndieWire. “That’s where I’m a fierce defender of Netflix.”

The Cannes Film Festival runs May 8 – 19.