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‘Okja’ Director And Tilda Swinton Defend Netflix Amid Cannes Controversy

Okja director Bong Joon-Ho and Tilda Swinton used their Cannes Film Festival press conference today to defend their Netflix film, the competition title that has the fest buzzing but not for the reasons a movie usually does.

“In fact, I loved working with Netflix, they gave me total freedom, in terms of the casting, shooting and editing,” said Bong today in the presser ahead of the film’s world premiere screening at the Palais. “They put no pressure on me. There were no restrictions on their part. It was a wonderful experience.”

The movie, as well as Netflix’s other Palme d’Or competitor, Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories, has been polarizing since the pair were announced for the Official Selection. Neither are getting a theatrical release, which has the French exhibition industry worked up. (After booking the Netflix pair, Cannes made a new rule that its competition films must have a traditional theatrical release in France after the French Cinema Federation objected. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings later responded saying, “The establishment closing ranks against us.”)

The film took another hit at the Cannes jury’s opening presser, when president Pedro Almodovar suggested he might have trouble awarding the fest’s marquee Palme d’Or to a movie that wasn’t shown in theaters.

Swinton addressed that today.

“It’s a statement that the president made, and it’s really important that the president feels free to make whatever statement he or she wants to make,” she said. “But the truth is we didn’t actually come here for prizes, we came her to show this film And it is true that we get the wonderful privilege to show this film on this screen. I think it’s an enormous and really interesting conversation that’s just beginning. But what I really think is that there is room for everyone.”

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Added Bong: “I’m just very happy that [Almodovar] will watch this movie tonight. I’m fine, he can say anything. In fact, I’m a huge fan of Pedro Almovodar, so that the fact that he talks about this film, whether in glowing terms or otherwise, I’m happy.”

Okja had even more problems today with its first press screening.  The movie was delayed about 15 minutes after all were seated when its aspect ratio was off, with a portion of the image on the ceiling. Both times Okja began to screen, it was met with loud booing from what is led to be the French contingent in the audience, because of the technical disruptions. One observer said, “You can’t guarantee that the booing will occur at the premiere tonight.”

The crowd seemed more forgiving by the end credits for the film about a girl who protects a rare animal from corporate interests in a genre mashup starring Swinton as the baddie, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Lily Collins and newcomer Seo-Hyeon Ahn.

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