Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Life&Culture | By Rose Hansen

Will Smith, Almodovar open a testy Cannes Film Festival

"They get to see films they wouldn't have otherwise seen".

"West Philadelphia is a long way from Cannes", said Smith, referring to the scrappy neighborhood in the northeastern USA city where he grew up. But this does not mean that I am not open and I do not respect and celebrate the new technologies and the possibilities that they offer us. Amazon brings Todd Haynes' Wonderstruck to the festival this year, and last year had The Neon Demon by Nicolas Winding Refn and Paterson by Jim Jarmusch in competition. This is a big deal for Netflix as well as any movies that go straight to streaming services, considering how prestigious the Cannes Film Festival is-yet its inclusion infuriated the Federation of French Cinemas, which argued that Netflix was ruining cinema (how French!).

"I see very little cross between going to the cinema and watching what they watch on Netflix in my home", he said.

A recent rule change jeopardized the standing of two Netflix titles - "Okja" and "The Meyerowitz Stories" - after French cinema owners insisted that the festival should only include films that have traditional theatrical releases planned in the European country.

"The Festival de Cannes is aware of the anxiety aroused by the absence of the release in theatres of those films in France", the statement added.

Netflix, which streams films and television shows to subscribers, has two of the hottest movies in contention for the Palme d'Or - its first time in competition at the festival that France boasts is the greatest in the world.

Whooping with excitement and high-fiving reporters, Will Smith looked like he was ready to have fun as a member of the Cannes Film Festival jury that assembled in this French Riviera resort on Wednesday.

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The debate over Netflix movies at the Cannes Film Festival came to a head on the opening day when jury president Pedro Almodóvar all but ruled out the streaming service's movies from taking home the top prize.

Pedro Almodovar, president of the festival jury, has taken a break from posing for the photographers and chose to take a spot amongst them, being handed a camera and shot his way- until an official asked him to get back to his original duty.

Stars are arriving under tighter security than in previous years, 10 months after the truck attack in nearby Nice killed 86 people.

On Wednesday, the heightened measures were already causing something unthinkable at the stringently clockwork Cannes: slight delays at screenings and press conferences.

"Since Sept. 11, Cannes has. maximized security measures", festival director Thierry Fremaux said in an interview. "So we need to pay attention". Critics, while praising some of the performances, weren't enamored with Desplechin's farcical, self-referential drama about a filmmaker visited by a long missing ex-wife.

Others in the running for top honors include "Happy End", another film set against the backdrop of the migrant crisis by "Amour" director Michael Haneke, who is seeking a record-breaking third Palme d'Or.

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