Netflix booed at Okja’s Cannes premiere

Netflix’s first Cannes Film Festival kicked off with a rocky start last night, when audiences at Bong Joon-ho’s Okja premiere booed the Netflix title card.

Reports from the festival say the first 10 minutes of the film were also played in the wrong aspect ratio, leading to more booing. The screening was started again from the beginning with the correct ratio, and Netflix’s title card was booed again — louder, according to The Hollywood Reporter’s Tatiana Siegel. Amazon’s title card was also reportedly booed, by a small group at an early morning press screening of Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck.

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

The festival released a statement shortly after, apologizing for the technical problems:

A propos de la projection de #Okja // About Okja’s screening #Cannes2017 pic.twitter.com/9tqieHcrXu

— Festival de Cannes (@Festival_Cannes) May 19, 2017

The incident follows weeks of snide back-and-forth between Netflix, the Cannes Film Festival, and the National Federation of French Cinemas, over the question of whether releasing movies primarily on streaming platforms somehow delegitimizes their standing as cinematic works. Okja is set for a limited theatrical release in the United States and the UK, and a wide release in South Korea, but it won’t be released in French theaters at all, due to French law that films be kept off streaming platforms for 36 months after their theatrical release.

Netflix briefly considered a limited release in France starting June 28th, when Okja premieres worldwide on the streaming service, but the conversation ended abruptly. Shortly after, Cannes announced that only films with scheduled theatrical releases in France would be considered for competition in the festival starting next year.

Early impressions of Okja, which follows a young girl (Ahn Seo-hyun) struggling to protect an adorable pet monster, were mostly positive, as several critics tweeted praise for its themes, creativity, and the performance of Jake Gyllenhaal:

OKJA: Big pig and big ideas, but the performances are even bigger, topped by a Jake Gyllenhaal role so flamboyant it can be seen from space

— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) May 19, 2017

Okja = So many great little moments. So many great little Gyllenhaal moments. I love Bong’s wacky summer camp for bored Hollywood actors

— Emily Yoshida (@emilyyoshida) May 19, 2017

My heart bleeds for #Okja. Great film, perfect creature feature, funny, honest /w attitude. Exactly what cinema needs…oh wait. #Cannes17

— Beatrice Behn (@DansLeCinema) May 19, 2017

OKJA: like ET on crack. wild & wildly uneven, but always soulful. A+ cast, 1 legendary chase, everything you want AT the movies #Cannes2017

— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) May 19, 2017

At a press conference following the screening, Tilda Swinton was asked about the festival’s likely reluctance to award Okja the Palme d’Or, and responded: “[T]he truth is we didn’t come here for prizes. We came here to show this film to the Cannes Film Festival and to people who have gathered here from all over the world… I think it’s an enormous and interesting conversation that is beginning, but the truth is if you want to know what I really think? I think, as in many matters, there is room for everybody.”

Bong also responded to the ongoing controversy, as well as comments made earlier in the week by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, defending Netflix as a supporter of creative filmmaking: “Giving such a budget to a director isn’t very common and i had total liberty. It was a wonderful experience. I’m saying that in terms of the shooting and the editing. They never intervened. They respected me from the beginning until the end. Quite frankly they gave me total freedom and liberty.”

Netflix’s second entry at the festival, Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories, premieres Sunday.

Update 8:35 AM ET: Updated to include report that an Amazon film was also booed.

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