Will Smith defends Netflix at Cannes: It's 'nothing but an absolute benefit'

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"Set in and around Calais as the refugee crisis grows, the film is certainly not short of political relevancy", said Irish Times critic Donald Clarke, who reckons this year's line-up is "the most promising in a decade".

A top Netflix executive urged film festivals to "change" and embrace movies from various platforms, with the streaming giant embroiled in a row over distribution with Cannes.

Jury president Almodovar agreed with the Netflix ban, insisting films should not be considered for important prizes if they had not had a cinema release.

However the Festival has threatened to exclude Netflix from future events after a backlash from French film distributors who are furious that the subscription service prefers to bypass cinemas and releases movies directly to its 100m streaming subscribers. "The Cannes Film Festival is the ultimate prestige in cinema". I do acknowledge them, but as long as I am alive, I will be fighting for one thing that I'm afraid the new generation is not aware of: the capacity for hypnosis of the large screen for a viewer. In my home, Netflix has had absolutely no effect on what they go to the movie theater to watch.

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The French film industry has been up in arms over the fact that the two films will not be getting theatrical releases locally.

In addition to Almodovar and Smith, this year's jury also includes Jessica Chastain, Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, German director Maren Ade, South Korean director Park Chan-wook, Chinese star Fan Bingbing, French actress Agnes Jaoui, and French-Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared.

"So I am excited to be here, more than anything to learn", he told a news conference alongside other members of the jury that will decide which film wins the Palme d'Or award on May 28.

Regarding the controversy over its limited screenings in theaters, which has brought about criticisms from the cinema industry, Sarandos said that Netflix is "not against movie theaters" and does not "mean to harm movie theaters", but rather, wishes to coexist with them.

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But Smith has a $90 million movie called "Bright" coming to Netflix only, in December.

The French Federation of Film Distributors said Netflix's presence at Cannes "is endangering a whole ecosystem". "In my home, Netflix has been nothing but an absolute benefit". Movie theater owners fear that Netflix will hit them where it hurts the most by breaking the classic window business model. And now they get to find those artists.

Actor Smith, who was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of boxer Muhammad Ali, launched a spirited defence of Netflix, saying it "broadens my children's cinematic global comprehension".

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