Bong Joon Ho Defends Netflix in Cannes: “They Gave Me Total Freedom”

The 'Okja' director was diplomatic in addressing the various controversies surrounding the streaming giant, while Tilda Swinton said
Bong Joon Ho

Following a rocky rollout but mostly positive reception to his film Okja during its first press screening in Cannes, South Korean filmmaking phenomenon Bong Joon Ho shrugged off the controversy that has swirled around the movie since the 70th edition of the iconic French film festival began on Wednesday.

He said he enjoyed working with Netflix and was happy for jury president Pedro Almodovar to see his movie despite his critical stance on Netflix.

At the start of Okja‘s debut screening on Friday, the movie was temporarily misframed on the big screen, leading to boos and jeers from the assembled international press corps. Eventually the screening was briefly stopped so that the problem could be fixed and the movie restarted. Cannes organizers later issued a statement taking responsibility for the incident and apologizing to the filmmakers.

The snafu followed some heat for Okja during the Cannes jury press conference earlier in the week. This year’s jury chair, Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar, read a prepared statement that suggested he might be preemptively excluding the film from consideration for the Palme d’Or, due to Netflix’s involvement and the streaming giant’s plans to release the movie online in most markets.

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“I personally don’t perceive the Palme d’Or [should be] given to a film that is then not seen on the big screen,” he said. “All this doesn’t mean that I am not open or [don’t] celebrate new technologies and opportunities, but…

Jonathan Demme, who directed ‘Silence of the Lambs,’ ‘Philadelphia,’ dies at 73

Jonathan Demme, a Hollywood filmmaker who reached his commercial apex in the early 1990s with the Oscar-winning thriller “The Silence of the Lambs” and the AIDS discrimination drama “Philadelphia,” and who also made one of the most compelling rock music documentaries of all time, died April 26 at his home in New York. He was 73.

The cause was complications from esophageal cancer, his publicists confirmed in a statement.

After an apprenticeship with the exploitation king Roger Corman, grinding out low-budget, lurid fare with underclothed women, Mr. Demme built a genre-crossing career that showcased his versatility.

His portfolio encompassed offbeat blue-collar films such as “Handle With Care” (1977) and “Melvin and Howard” (1980) and enjoyable if anodyne Hollywood dramas and comedies from the 1980s (“Swing Shift,” “Something Wild,” “Married to the Mob”). He also developed a thriving sideline in documentary work that allowed him to indulge what he called his “obsessive interest in rock and roll.”

From his revered musical documentary “Stop Making Sense” (1984), about the Talking Heads, to “Rachel Getting Married” (2008), a dysunctional-family drama starring Anne Hathaway, his films shared an affectionate generosity toward even the most shambolic characters.

Director Jonathan Demme poses with television personality Oprah Winfrey in 2004. (Evan Agostini)

“Very few directors have had Demme’s delicate intuitive feel for the ragged texture of life out of the mainstream,” Washington Post film critic Hal Hinson once wrote, “for the way we talk and separate and make love; for the look of lunch counters, bathrooms, and gas stations. Demme suffuses the people in his films with a warm acceptance, but he stands back as well, looking on with appreciation and detachment. This balance gives his films a floating, bemused quality that never seems sticky or cloying, a sense of events seen in their proper proportions.”

His creative mid-career peak was “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991). As sleekly executed as it was frightening, the movie starred Anthony Hopkins as the Chianti-loving cannibal Hannibal Lecter aiding the FBI in hunting down another serial killer. New York Times film critic Vincent Canby declared it “pop film making of a high order.” It swept the Oscars, winning best picture, best director, best actor (Hopkins) and best actress (Jodie Foster as an FBI employee).

Mr. Demme’s reward was a studio prestige project, “Philadelphia” (1993). It was one of the first major Hollywood films to address the AIDS crisis, but reviewers said the film was marred by a predictable, self-conscious seriousness and a script that seldom went beyond obvious heroes and villains.

The movie benefited enormously from an Oscar-winning performance by Tom Hanks as a gay white-collar lawyer who is fired when it is revealed he has contracted AIDS. Denzel Washington was the lawyer who, despite his initial prejudice against homosexuals, helps him defeat the establishment. (Mr. Demme had his friends Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young contribute songs for the soundtrack; Springsteen won an Oscar for his song, “Streets of Philadelphia.”)

In his subsequent Hollywood directing jobs, Mr. Demme displayed technical competence but professed a certain joylessness in making “Beloved” (1998), a version of the Toni Morrison novel that starred Oprah Winfrey,…