A Cinematic Cold War

Netflix deserves recognition, but not at all film events

By Jason Lauckner Chief Executive Producer, 22 West Video

 Films have been a cornerstone of American culture since the early 20th century. The majority of us have some sort of intimate experience or memory associated with them. We remember the ways their stories affect us. For me, they influenced my decision to become a filmmaker. However, as a filmmaker, it’s still hard to determine if screen size has any say over a film’s merit.

Over the past three weeks, Netflix has come under heat for their content format. In a direct response to the post-Oscars season, where the streaming service got four nominations for its original film “Mudbound,” prolific director Steven Spielberg criticized the decision to even include it. In an interview with Variety, he said that he didn’t believe “films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”  

These issues facing Netflix — although both are major talking points in the future of film and its venues, as well as the legitimacy of a streaming platform — are two separate instances dictated by the intent of the particular film event.

Shortly after, Netflix became involved in a feud with Cannes Film Festival, pulling five films under their distribution from the event. This was primarily because of Cannes Art Director Thierry Fremaux’s decision to ban films with no theatrical release in France. The rule was loosely enforced last year, with Netflix originals “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories” allowed in the festival due to their limited same-day theater and streaming releases. However, since last year, the rules have not shifted in Netflix’s favor.

These issues facing Netflix — although both are major talking points in the future of film and its venues, as well as the legitimacy of a streaming platform — are two separate instances dictated by the intent of the particular film event.

The Oscars are an event in which films are chosen solely based on their merit. They’ve had a distribution run and a main box office income. On the other hand, awards given at Cannes are really more of a secondary nature. When films go there, the top priority is not to have people in awe of one’s talent, but to create a marketplace for independent films to find buyers, sellers and distributors for their films.

With that perspective in mind, Netflix movies shouldn’t be ousted from events that are made specifically to award films for their craftsmanship and merit, like the Oscars. However, when it comes to film festivals, like Cannes, it doesn’t even make sense that Netflix, which already exists as its own production company and distribution studio, would even want to contend for major spots there.