Cinema Resistance

By Didier Allouch, host of Rendez-vous d'Amérique.

My dear francophiles, francovorous and francophageous friends, as you will see in this week’s episode of Rendez-vous d’Amérique, going to the movies in France has become much more than nice entertainment or cultural evening - it has become an act of resistance...

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It started a couple of years ago, when two Netflix movies were selected in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Even if those two movies had therefore no chance to be released in French theaters, Netflix refuses to send their French films on Netflix to the French screens.

If a movie is released in France, it enters by law into the windows systems that impose a timing and order in the life of a film. First it’s released in theaters, then it can be shown on pay-TV and released on DVD and Blu-Ray.  A few months later still, it could be seen on the networks, and finally on the VOD server. Way too long for Netflix. So they decided not to release their films in French theaters, and drop them directly onto their platform instead.

This, as you can imagine, didn’t please French exhibitors. They fought the presence of movies in competition in Cannes that wouldn’t be released in theatres. And they won. Cannes has agreed to never have another Netflix film in competition. They could theoretically show a movie out of the competition, but they will never win the Palme d’Or, unless they change their policy concerning French theaters. Knowing Netflix, it probably won’t happen.

It was a victory for the French exhibitors, a way to fight tough new competition, and also a way to say that “real” cinema is shown in “real” theaters.

In the beginning, the rest of the world viewed French cinema owners like total aliens, asking what was wrong with them.

Now, it’s different. Netflix and other VOD platforms have become the principal competitor to theater owners all over the world and the fight has become global.

And French theater owners are kind of the heroes of the industry, the precursor of the fight, the roots of the resistance.

Personally, I have been a fan of Netflix for a number of years. When they were a DVD renting service (some of you are probably too young to know that), but before streaming movies on your computers, your phones, your tablets, your TV sets, your fridge, or your hair dryer, Netflix was a DVD renting service. You ordered your French films on Netflix online and it arrived in your mailbox a couple of days later. You just had to send it back when you were done watching it. And they had all kinds of movies. A lot of them were from France.  It was long before TV5MONDE Cinema On Demand, way before the days we live, where it’s pretty easy to find French speaking movies in the US. And, yes, the service helped us to stay connected with French films on Netflix. But now, it’s a totally different beast. A big one, a studio of its own.

Oh, I’m still a subscriber, and yes; I love Stranger Things, Casa De Papel, Umbrella Academy, etc… But I don’t like what they’re doing with their movies.

The case of Roma is a perfect example of how wrong the Netflix system is in terms of movies. Roma, Alfonso’s Cuaron’s movie, is a masterpiece, a fine piece of cinema. But is a film ‘cinema’ if you can’t watch it in a cinema? Everyone has their own answer to this question.

The French exhibitors had their own, and they shouted it loud enough for the entire world to listen. Yeah, I guess it could be called an act of Resistance.

To learn more about French films on Netflix, the theater owner’s resistance, and other happenings that define Francophone culture in America, read our blog, and tune in to our episodes of Rendez-vous d’Amérique on TV5MONDE USA. Click here for more information.

Exploring a diversity of culture entwined with the insatiable energy of New York’s theatres, the bright lights of Las Vegas Blvd, the inspirational beauty of Louisana’s bayous, and beyond - Rendez-vous d'Amérique invites you on a journey to discover Francophone culture in America. Your host on this cultural experience is Didier Allouch - reporter, cinephile, and a familiar face at movie premieres. Click here to learn how you can subscribe to TV5MONDE USA and never miss an episode!