Cannes: Will Smith and Pedro Almodovar spar over Netflix at Cannes Jury Presser

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When you put Will Smith on your jury you're asking for it. I'm saying this as a fan, for the most part, of the "Gettin' Jiggy With It" rapper's acting chops ("Ali" especially). 

I attended the Cannes press conference that had Smith, along with a jury which includes Jessica Chastain, Maren Ade, Agnes Jaoui, and president Pedro Alnodovar) being asked questions about the jury process, but also, more interestingly, Cannes' recent feud with Netflix over competition films not receiving theatrical release in France. A big nono says most of the French public and critics, including Cannes President Thierry Fremaux. 

Almodovar was ready to be asked a question about this particular topic and it did, in fact, happen. He prepared a statement beforehand which he ended up reading to us in the room: 

“What I prefer absolutely is, yes to be seen not [just] in 190 countries but always to be seen in a big screen. That is really what I am concerned about. I promise to be very brief. You point [to] the question and the debate of this year. I’m going to read a small statement in Spanish about what you asked before. Digital platforms are a new way of working images which in its way is enriching and positive. But these platforms, these new forms, should not take the place of existing forms such as the fact of going to the movie theater. They should under no circumstances change the habits of viewers.The only solution I think is that the new platforms accept and should obey the existing rules that are already adopted and respected by all the exiting networks. I think this is the only way to make them survive and because I personally do not conceive not only the Palme d’Or but any other prize being given to a film and then not being able to see this film on a large screen.”

Now, now Pedro. You do realize that by saying you don't agree with the Palme D'or being given to a film not seen on a large screen you are basically saying you will refuse to give awards to the two Netflix films in competition at the year's fest: 
Bong Joon-Ho's “Okja” and Noah Baumbach's  “The Meyerowitz Stories.”

Now, this is where Smith comes in. He has a Netflix movie, "Bright," premiering this year. It is the most expensive Netflix movie ever made with an estimated budget of $90M. And so, as you can imagine, his response to the yay or nay Netflix question was completely different than Almodovar's and sets up what could potentially be a debate-filled jury this year. 

“I have a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old and a 24-year-old at home,” Smith says. “They go to the movies twice a week and they watch Netflix….I don’t know about other people’s home, but in my home Netflix has had absolutely no effect on what they go to the movie theater to watch. They go to the movie the theater to be humbled in front of certain images and there are other films they prefer to watch at home. It’s not as though they would have gone to the cinema if it was on Netflix. It’s two completely different forms of entertainment they go for. In my house Netflix has been nothing but an absolute benefit because they get to watch films that they never would have seen. Netflix bring a great connectivity to them to the world. There are movies that are not on a screen within 8,000 miles. And now they get to find those artists and they get to look them up online and they make contact. And there is this whole underground world of artists that gets born from that kind of connectivity. In my home it has done nothing but broaden my children’s cinematic global comprehension.”
“We can’t pretend that tech isn’t evolving. I think it would be unfortunate need duties and tax,” Jaoui says. “It’s a very French issue. The situation isn’t the same elsewhere in the world. We really need to question the situation. We shouldn’t penalize the great directors. French people should be able to see these movies on the big screen."
Adding insult to injury, Smith added this about, shock, the task of watching three movies a day and, even bigger shock, doing it at the early hour of 8:30 am.
“When I first got the call I was really excited,” Smith recalls. “My publicist she called me and she was like, ‘They want you to be on the jury at Cannes’ and I was like, ‘Yes! Perfect.’ She said, ‘It’s about two weeks.’ ‘Oh, hold up. Hold up.’ ‘It’s 10 days, it’s 10 days.’ ‘Alright, alright. That’s cool.’ ‘And you’ll be watching two to three movies a day.’ ‘Um, OK. I can do that.’ I was probably fourteen years old the last time I watched three movies in a day. There movies in a day is a lot. So, I’m looking forward to it. A movie at 8:30 in the morning. We talked about that also. I’m going to be in bed every night and I’m going to be watching my 8:30 screenings wide awake, focused to give my best.”
No joke, my colleagues in the room were rolling their eyes at the comment. As I mentioned before, love many of the movies he's made, but, man, the next 11 days might be very long for Smith as he will have to deal with not only the media, but Mr. Almodovar presiding over him in the jury.