Digital upstarts upend tradition at Cannes Film Festival

21 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cannes 2015: Amputee ‘told off for not wearing high heels’ on red carpet.

But at this festival, cracks are beginning to appear. Cannes festival organisers are facing further scrutiny amid new claims a film producer with a partially amputated foot was turned away from the red carpet for not wearing high heels.

Danish film producer Valeria Richter has revealed she was stopped four times and told ‘no, no, no, this won’t work, you can’t get in like this’ as she tried to make her way to a film premier. Co-star Emily Blunt has been openly critical of the heels rule, saying that “everyone should wear flats” and she “prefers wearing Converse sneakers”. “It’s very disappointing. You kind of think that there’s these new waves of equality and waves of people realising that women are just as fascinating and interesting to watch, and bankable,” she said at the presser, while wearing mustard stilettoes.

The row erupted when it was revealed several women in their 50s, some with medical conditions, were barred from entering the screening of the lesbian romance Carol starring Cate Blanchett. A quick check in my wardrobe was meant to confirm that I didn’t have any high heels – but horror of horrors I actually found a pair lurking in a dark recess.

After initial reports surfaced of the so-called heels policy, many others in attendance at the glamorous festival revealed they had experienced similar treatment. Beefed-up teams from digital entities such as Amazon and Vimeo are pursuing rights with the zeal once reserved for studios like Universal Studios and Warner Bros. The evening was ruined for me, as the balls of my feet began to burn and I had to cross my legs because very idea of walking 100 yards to the Ladies defeated me.

On Tuesday, Netflix sent a signal about its growing clout when it acquired the Kevin James’ movie “The True Memoirs of an International Assassin,” its first major original-film buy at Cannes. Festival organisers have since moved to deny claims high heels are obligatory, with director Thierry Fremaux tweeting that rumours women must wear heels on the steps are ‘unfounded’.

The result is a vibrant if combustible time for the worldwide film business and the Cannes market that represents it, which in recent months has begun to catch up to the changes of its TV counterparts. “The conversations I’ve had here have been all over the map,” said Jeremy Boxer, the creative director for film and television at Vimeo. “A lot of people are excited, and many are worried. And that is prompting change.” The streaming giant has dived into original films during the past eight months, paying a reported $12 million for rights to distribute “Beasts of No Nation,” an African war drama from “True Detective” director Cary Fukunaga. But although Netflix has opened the vaults for filmmakers, it also has polarized the industry with a model that controls all rights — moving away from ancillary revenue streams such as DVD and also eschewing a theater-first release.

They told her she could go and buy appropriate shoes and come back.’ Over the past year, numerous high-profile women in film have publicly addressed the gender gap in cinema, urging it to be narrowed and to provide more women with opportunities both on and behind the camera. When French moderators and attendees pressed him on questions about his non-theatrical model — the European film community has been slower to embrace digital shifts — he said “nothing we’re doing is meant to be anti-theater or anti-cinema,” adding, “People will still go to movies.

Sales agents and buyers pour into Cannes to do business at what’s informally known as “the market.” Contrary to perceptions, the festival is far from just a place of high-end directors and cinephiles. I would never tell someone they shouldn’t wear heels, that is their choice and if they think it makes them look sexy and taller and elongates their legs and they are prepared to pay the price then fine.

The market serves as a bazaar of international rights for many less high-profile films and acts as a sort of trade show that runs in parallel with the screenings and red-carpet events. With nearly every global buyer and seller present, attendees gather on a dedicated convention show floor as well as the town’s many hotel bars and restaurants to hash out deals for territorial rights.

Separate the sexes at these occasions, line them up, and you would think the women were off to a garden party and the men were off to a football match. It is a one-stop shopping hub, a place where a producer in Asia can seal a deal with a buyer from Eastern Europe and where star appearances and footage samples are often brought out to sweeten the pitch. My tiny head is really tiny and means that all hats make me look like one of the Flowerpot men – but I shall persevere and endeavor not to catch sight of myself in a mirror.

Fremaux, too, questioned Netflix’s model. “Ask him,” Fremaux told he audience before the talk, “whether he wants to support the production of film for theaters.” Amazon has also been gathering steam on the international film scene. The company, best known in television for its Golden Globe-decorated “Transparent,” several months ago hired the veteran film producer Ted Hope to run its operations. Last month it announced that it would back Spike Lee’s new drama “Chiraq.” The company has employed a less radical model, incorporating theatrical exclusivity into its plans, and also offering both subscription and one-off viewing options to consumers. Riding high on the breakout success of its episodic pot comedy “High Maintenance,” Boxer and another colleague are also in Cannes seeking original content.

Film industry insiders say that they need to rethink the traditional ways of doing business, in which producers sell movies primarily to theatrical distributors, who often hold or then sell DVD and television rights. “What’s fascinating about this period is that the portals are feeling their own way about what works for them, even as filmmakers and financiers need to figure out what works on their end,” he said. “All filmmakers want the undivided attention of theaters. They don’t want people to text or turn off the movie; they want the communal experience,” said Asif Kapadia, the director of the acclaimed documentary “Senna.” His latest selection, “Amy,” about the late soul singer Amy Winehouse, premiered to warm reviews in the Cannes official selection Saturday. “But the other side is that you want as many people as possible to see the work,” Kapadia said. “In the old days, if you didn’t have a distributor you were confident in, no one would see the movie, and that was years of your life wasted. In the digital world that’s not the case.” Allen embodies the old school — he has premiered many new movies at Cannes,” including “Midnight in Paris” in 2011 and the new existential comedy “Irrational Man” this year. I expect this to be a cosmic embarrassment.” Oculus, which is working to build a new medium with virtual reality, will fly in top executives to address attendees Wednesday and try to woo support from the traditional filmmaking community. A character played by Jesse Eisenberg donned a headset and was schooled in how to use it, offering a rare burst of cutting-edge technology in the more staid realm of a Cannes red-carpet screening. “I feel like it’s come really far in a year,” Sloss said. “But it feels like it will come even further next year, with new companies, new models, new experiments.

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