It’s that time of the year when the great and the good of the film world descend on a small fishing town in the South of France, Cannes for the Film Festival. This year, on the Festival’s 70th anniversary, there is a new juror in town, Will Smith. He joins Jessica Chastain and Paolo Sorrentino on the jury and together they will select the Palme d’Or winner from the 19 films in contention.
Will Smith attracts attention where ever he goes but this time he has made the news for defending Netflix and where it is positioned in these more traditional settings. This year, for the first time (and potentially the last), two Netflix films are competing for the Palme d’Or. New rules state that from next year, in order for films to be eligible they will have to be released in French cinemas.
It is inevitable that a star as big as Will Smith is going to steal the limelight from those around him but it takes a strong person to voice an opinion that is different to the Cannes Jury President and respected Spanish Director, Pedro Almodovar; who believes that the prize shouldn’t be given to a film that isn’t able to be seen on a big screen.
Will Smith’s movie, “Bright” is being distributed by Netflix and one should never bite the hand that feeds one, but it is refreshing to see an individual standing up for what they believe, particularly in a forum where public opinion could differ.
I agree with Will Smith and his view on Netflix, the movie industry is changing and if film festivals like Cannes don’t acknowledge and accept change, where will they be in five or ten years? This year alone Netflix and Amazon are estimated to spend a combined $10.5b on video, with this sort of spending how long will it be until we see the first Netflix or Amazon ‘blockbuster’ movie?
Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Will Smith at the “Suicide Squad” premiere in London, and I found him to be genuine pleasant company. Seeing the journey he has come on from the early days of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to big-budget productions such as “Independence Day” and “Concussion” makes you realise how versatile an actor he is, and that’s before you even start talking about his music career!
Myself and my colleague David Gibbs will be making our annual pilgrimage to Cannes this weekend and despite having a busy schedule lined up, I hope to find some time to take in a movie or two. First on my list is the last film of the late John Hurt, “That Good Night”, I am sure there will be a fitting tribute shown to a man who was truly one of the greats. If I get some down time, perhaps I will enjoy a movie or two on Netflix…