In what may be a lasting memory at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Netflix’s forthcoming fantasy film Okja – from Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-Ho – experienced technical difficulties during its first screening at the prestigious film festival. The screening is further significant considering Okja is the very first Netflix title to screen at Cannes (it’s in competition to boot). The hubbub may commence long-standing jokes and may spark a few conspiracy theories considering some cinema purists were upset with the decision for Cannes to screen Netflix titles at the august film festival.
The problem appears to be that the aspect ratio was improperly set with the mis-framed image cutting off the top and bottom part of the image. However, the community of international critics screening the film may have already been in a foul mood as reportedly, a chorus of boos started to erupt as the Netflix logo opened the screening. The loud cry continued until the screening was ultimately stopped. Here’s some first hand reaction of the chaos:
OKJA starts, huge boos at Netflix logo. Then film plays in wrong aspect ratio and Grand Lumiere almost rioted. movie stopped. #Cannes2017
— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) May 19, 2017
Cannes making an A+ case for the primacy of the cinema experience this AM by projecting the first ten mins of Okja in the wrong aspect ratio
— Robbie Collin (@robbiereviews) May 19, 2017
Okja screening at Cannes halted after 10 mins of booing, hooting & rhythmic clapping, mostly from the balcony. Welcome to Cannes, Netflix.
— Steve Pond (@stevepond) May 19, 2017
Chaos at OKJA! Projection screwed up! People jeering and clapping! #Cannes2017 descends into Euro madness at long last!
— Richard Lawson (@rilaws) May 19, 2017
Vive le cinéma pic.twitter.com/V2tRZLigwA
— Guy Lodge (@GuyLodge) May 19, 2017
The fracas belies what was on paper at pinnacle for the streaming giant as Netflix has not just one but two high-profile film in competition at Cannes this year – the other being Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories. However, tempers have been burning in the international film community over the merits of Netflix titles at Cannes; purists suggest that it dilutes the prestige considering Netflix isn’t too interested in theatrical releases. The streaming giant largely ignores the process if not altogether than without the traditionalism that streaming rival Amazon has instilled in their feature films.
Further dividing the debate was an announcement from festival organizers that moving forward, all competition films would have to carry through with traditional theatrical runs in France – this decision came about after the French Cinema Federation complained about Cannes admitting the Netflix titles. This announcement caused Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to comment, “The establishment [is] closing ranks against us.” It’s worth noting that this year, Cannes also included two television entries in David Lynch’s revived Twin Peaks and Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake: China Girl; both directors are Cannes perennials, however.
We shall see what develops once Okja finally makes it’s Cannes debut. The film – an adventure about a young girl and her monster friend – does come packed with star wattage in the form of Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano and Lily Collins.