Will Smith, Almodovar open a testy Cannes Film Festival

Will Smith, Almodovar open a testy Cannes Film Festival

However the Festival has threatened to exclude Netflix from future events after a backlash from French film distributors who are furious that the subscription service prefers to bypass cinemas and releases movies directly to its 100m streaming subscribers.

Spanish director Pedro Almodovar is leading the jury charged with picking a victor among the 19 films vying for the coveted Palme d'Or top prize, on a panel that also includes Smith, "Interstellar" star Jessica Chastain, and Chinese actress Fan Bingbing.

There are 12 female-directed films in this year's 54-strong official selection, including three in competition.

While a fight between American streaming giant Netflix and French movie theaters has overshadowed the opening, fans of auteur cinema are excited to see the latest works by the likes of Noah Baumbach, Francois Ozon and Lynne Ramsay.

The films will vie for the coveted Palme d'Or, which was previous year won by British director and Cannes stalwart Ken Loach for his searing benefits drama I, Daniel Blake.

"I prefer absolutely to be seen in not only 190 countries, but always to be seen on a big screen", Almodóvar said to scattered applause from the press.

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Jury members Will Smith, from left, Jessica Chastain and Pedro Almodovar pose for photographers during the photo call for the Jury at the 70th global film festival, Cannes, southern France, Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

Smith described Netflix in his home as an "absolute benefit." Why? Cinema purists have said this sets a unsafe precedent since the films don't get a theatrical release. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings hit back with a post on Facebook, saying: "The establishment [is] closing ranks against us".

Earlier Wednesday, Pedro Almodovar, who's presiding over this year's competition jury, read a lengthy statement in which he said, "I personally can not conceive of not only the Palme d'Or, but any other prize, being given to a film and then being unable to see this film on a large screen". "You must be small and humble in front of the image that's here".

The ruling could mean trouble for Netflix and similar online distributors, which normally don't show their movies in theatres (Netflix did a limited release for Beasts of No Nation to qualify if for some U.S. awards, and Amazon's Manchester by the Sea did well at the Oscars, partially thanks to its theatrical release).

"People these days watch movies in theaters or via Blu-ray, legal online download and Netflix". Netflix bring a great connectivity to them to the world. And now they get to find those artists and they look them up online and they make contact. "We're very proud to partner with NEW to also give Korean viewers such opportunity to see the film in theaters at the same time", Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer, said during a news conference to promote the film at a Seoul hotel.

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