Netflix's Ted Sarandos & Bong Joon-Ho Talk Cannes Controversy, 'Okja' U.S. & U.K. Theatrical Release Confirmed

With the Cannes Film Festival kicking off this week, Netflix is now playing nice before the curtain raises on the streaming service’s films. Things got a big ugly last week when Cannes announced they were changing their rules, and starting next year, any film playing in Competition must have a French theatrical release secured. It was a direct shot at Netflix, who have long earned the scorn of French distributors for not following traditional release rules in the country where any film that hits cinemas in wide release cannot appear on a streaming service for 36 months. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings didn’t take long to respond that it was another sign of the “establishment closing ranks against us,” but now CCO Ted Sarandos is taking a more conciliatory tone.

“I’m extremely proud of our association with ‘Okja’ and Cannes. The Cannes Film Festival has a great history of only inviting what they believe are the greatest films in the world. And I believe it’s in that spirit that they invited ‘Okja,’ ” he said a recent press conference. “Historically, there have been many films without distribution that got into the festival. Distribution is something that people will hash around for many years to come. I mostly would like to thank Thierry [Fremaux] for being bold and innovative in his choices to invite director Bong [Joon-Ho]. I believe it’s one of the greatest films in the world. I believe in the years to come, Cannes will continue to invite the greatest films in the world. Distribution is changing, therefore festivals will continue to change, too.”

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Meanwhile, Bong Joon-Ho celebrated Netflix for allowing him to make the most expensive film in South Korean history with a budget of $50 million, and granting film the creative freedom that so few filmmakers are able to achieve.

“I entered the project under the condition that the film would be released through a wide distribution channel. Film distribution is, of course, important but as a writer-director, I am first and foremost interested in creative freedom.… It is rare to have had this much creative freedom, for such a big-budget film anywhere in the world, a privilege only allowed to those godlike filmmakers like Spielberg or Scorsese,” he explained. “But it’s scary, too, since it means I am 100-percent responsible. Any flaw or negativity in the film would be 100-percent my fault.”

As for the theatrical release of “Okja,” Sarandos confirmed that the film would be hitting the big screen in South Korea, U.S., and the U.K. day-and-date with its debut on the streaming service. So, now you have the choice whether to leave the house, and pay $15 to see it at the arthouse, or cozy up with the film in the comfort of your living room. Stay tuned for our review for Cannes, and while you wait, here’s the new poster for the film. [Screen Daily/THR]