Netflix vs. Cannes: Streamer Gets Cuaron’s “Roma”

In a surprise twist, Netflix has picked up “Gravity” and “Children of Men” director Alfonso Cuaron’s new film “Roma” reports Vanity Fair. The film follows a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City and ties into The Corpus Christi Massacre in which student demonstrators were killed by elite Mexican soldiers.

The news comes right before the announcement next week of the Cannes Film Festival line-up for this year where “Roma” was likely to be one of the major potential candidates to screen in competition. However, with the war between Netflix and Cannes escalating, this will no doubt be seen as a potential ‘strike back’ by the streaming giant against festival organisers.

Following last year’s screenings of both “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories,” and the ensuing controversy that came of it, the festival has now instituted a new rule requiring films screening in competition to have to commit to a regular theatrical release in France – effectively blocking Netflix original films from qualifying (films screened theatrically in France legally can’t be released on streaming services for three years).

As a result, Netflix threatened a boycott and has now not only snatched up one of the potential crown jewels of this year’s festival, but is threatening to hold back both it and four other high-profile films which were set to appear – Paul Greengrass’ “Norway,” Jeremy Saulnier’s “Hold the Dark,” Morgan Neville’s documentary “They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead” and the long in the works remaster and reconstruction of Orson Welles’ unfinished “The Other Side of the Wind”.

The battle is seen as a microcosm of the larger industry fight for the future of not only cinematic exhibition but the entire film industry itself. Conversations are reportedly taking part between the festival and the streaming service to resolve the impasse, but a final decision won’t be made until Cannes announces its official lineup on April 12th.

As for “Roma,” the release plans aren’t clear yet but, with the exception of an awards-qualifying theatrical run in the United States, it looks like it won’t be screened anywhere else theatrically – though may try for a Fall festival run.