Cannes festival, day three: Let the booing commence
This time it was for a technical hiccup and not for Bong Joon-ho’s fine film ‘Okja’
Actors Tilda Swinton, Ahn Seo-Hyun, Jake Gyllenhaal and director Bong Joon-Ho at the Okja photocall. Photograph: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
Cannes would not be Cannes without booing. The bovine noises before Bong Joon-ho’s Okja were not unexpected.
Grumpy chatter concerning the inclusion of films from Netflix – producers of that Korean ecological fantasy – have been brewing for weeks and, sure enough, when the company’s logo appeared there was an outbreak of disgruntled emanations.
What happened next might, to the unobservant attendee, have sounded like a full-scale art riot. Catcalls descended from the upper balcony. There was shouting from the depths. It transpired that the top of the image was not showing up on screen. Eventually the film was restarted.
This was doubly embarrassing for the Cannes authorities. The organisers changed the rules for admission when it transpired that Netflix was not going to show either of its competition entries in French cinemas. From next year, a commitment to domestic exhibition must be tendered before a film can compete for the Palme d’Or.
Yet the festival had failed to show Okja as the film-makers intended. (While we waited for the film to restart, an Italian journalist joked that perhaps Netflix were going to show it to us on our phones.)
Secondly, by restarting the film, the organisers gave the herd a second chance to boo Netflix. This they did, to a few responding cheers.
Cannes almost immediately issued an apology. “This incident is completely due to the technical staff of the festival, who deeply apologise to the director and his team, to the producers as well as to the audience,” it read.
The film was ultimately very well received. A serious, effects-heavy comedy starring Tilda Swinton as the evil head of a conglomerate that produces giant pigs, Okja says things worth hearing the state of the planet.
At the press conference following the screening, Bong was asked about nonsensical rumours the technical problems were a result of sabotage. “What happened this morning, I’m happy about it,” he laughed. “You guys can watch the opening sequence twice.”
Swinton was asked about the comments by Pedro Almodóvar, president of the Cannes jury, suggesting he would not like to see the Palme d’Or given to a film that did not play theatrically.
“It’s a statement the president made and he is entitled to make any statement,” she said coolly, before twisting the knife a bit. “As somebody who has sat on many juries, it is a task to immediately nobble some people who have been invited to the party. But the truth is we didn’t come here for prizes. We came to show the film to Cannes.”
Bong professed himself untroubled by Almodóvar’s comments. “I’m just happy he will watch this movie tonight,” he said. “He can say anything. I’m fine.”
Elsewhere in Cannes, British film officials were working hard to calm nervousness about the fallout from Brexit.
Isabel Davis, “head of international” at the British Film Institute, assured an audience Brexit would not damage government tax relief for film production and British films could still qualify as “European” under the current EU legislation. She also confirmed that most coproduction treaties are organised under the umbrella of the Council of Europe and, thus, should survive the divorce from the EU.
This will be good news for the many Irish producers who work alongside British colleagues. “The UK is involved in many films where borders are crossed very frequently,” Davis said. “The UK industry has made the case to government that it’s absolutely necessary to the making of films that that happens, and we feel quite confident that, backed up coproduction treaties, these gateways should be open.”
The festival continues.