Will Smith defends Netflix at Cannes: It's 'nothing but an absolute benefit'

CANNES, France — The biggest wild card in the Cannes competition jury is already shaking things up.

Will Smith appeared with fellow jurors including Jessica Chastain, Paolo Sorrentino and Park Chan-wook at the film festival's opening-day media conference Wednesday afternoon, where he clashed with jury president Pedro Almodóvar over streaming movies' place at the fest.

Cannes received backlash this year for accepting two upcoming Netflix titles into its Palme d'Or competition: Bong Joon Ho's Okja and Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). The festival announced last week that, starting next year, only theatrically released films will be eligible for the prestigious award — a sore point for Smith, whose new movie Bright debuts on Netflix later this year.

His children, Jaden and Willow Smith, "go to the movies twice a week and they watch Netflix. There's very little cross between going to the cinema and watching what they watch on Netflix," Smith said. "In my home, Netflix has been nothing but an absolute benefit. (They) watch films they otherwise wouldn’t have seen. It has broadened my children’s global cinematic comprehension."

"All this doesn’t mean that I am not open or celebrate new technologies and opportunities," Almodóvar said. "But (while) I'm alive, I’ll be fighting for the capacity of hypnosis of the large screen for the viewer."

Smith was characteristically warm throughout the rest of the panel, joking that he'll best Kirsten Dunst's 28 red-carpet outfits last year (“I'll be going for 32”) and appearing genuinely humbled by the invitation to join the judging panel.

His hometown of Philadelphia "is a long way from Cannes Film Festival," Smith said. "It's kind of the ultimate prestige in cinema, so I'm excited to be here and more than anything, to learn."

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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