UPDATE: Netflix competition entry from Bong Joon-ho screens in wrong aspect ratio; festival issues apology.
Friday morning’s press screening of Netflix’s Okja at Cannes Film Festival was halted temporarily while organisers raced to fix technical issues and subsequently issued an apology.
Critics booed when Bong Joon-ho’s South Korean adventure starring Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano was projected in the wrong aspect ratio.
Disgruntled audience members at Netflix’s first ever competition entry reportedly stomped their feet as Swinton’s head was cropped from the picture, as was the top of the head of the giant pig that is central to the story.
It is understood the wrong format was projected for about six minutes according to audience members who took to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction.
Early reactions on Twitter reported “incessant booing” at the start of the Okja screening once the technical issues flared up, while one wag noted, “Netflix really narrowing the window here.”
The disruption occurred after audience reported long lines to get in amid heightened security protocol at Cannes.
Shortly after the incident the festival press office issued a statement that read: “A technical problem occured during the press screening of OKJA, the film by Bong Joon ho, this morning at the 8.30am screening at the Auditorium Lumiere. After an interruption of several minutes, the screening started again and went normal.
“This incident is completely due to the technical staff of the Festival who deeply apologize to the director and his team, to the producers as well as to the audience.”
The screening is the latest episode to keep Netflix in the headlines in Cannes.
Earlier in the week jury president Pedro Almodovar caused a stir when he weighed in on the running battle between Netflix and the French exhibitors.
“I don’t perceive the Palme d’Or given to a film that is then not seen on the big screen,” the director read from a prepared statement, before he had seen Okja or Netflix’s other film in competition, The Meyerowitz Stories.
Okja marks Bong’s follow-up to the acclaimed Snowpiercer and centres on a girl who sets out to save her best friend – the aforementioned massive pig – from being kidnapped by a multination company.
Before the festival started, Cannes announced a rule change whereby all festival submissions from 2018 onwards will need to commit to being released in French theatres.
That came in response to rising alarm among the French exhibition sector that Netflix’s business model bypasses theatres and would contravene the country’s strict media chronology laws forbidding online distribution until three years after a theatrical release.
Speaking at the start of the week in Seoul at a press conference with Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, Bong said he was not particularly bothered by the ongoing controversy over windows.
“For me, how a film is distributed is important, too, but as an auteur, freedom of creation and all kinds of editing rights are important, too,” Bong said.
“Whether in the US or Korea, aside from almost god-like directors like Spielberg or Scorsese, it’s hard for a director to get 100% control of a film this size. Netflix was willing to give it and so there was no reason for me to hesitate in working with them.”
Okja will get a limited theatrical release in South Korea, the S and the UK.