It seems every award season in recent years has been accompanied by a tedious discussion of the artistic merits of streaming content. This year is no different with Alfonso Cuarón’s critically lauded epic Roma coming to audiences via Netflix’s streaming platform, sparking yet another debate about whether these films should count the same as theatrically released ones or whether the streaming model is healthy for the industry as a whole. After winning the award for Best Director at last night’s Golden Globes, Cuarón had no patience for this streaming debate bullshit and told reporters as much backstage.
Hefting one statuette in each hand, the director was asked what he thought of people saying that the success of streaming award-contenders would be “the death of independent cinema” because it showed that a theatrical release was no longer necessary. Cuarón responded to the journalist with a question of his own:
How many theaters did you think that a Mexican film in black and white, in Spanish and Mixteco, that is a drama without stars — how big did you think it would be as a conventional theatrical release? ... It was not a cosmetic release. To this day, the movie— it opened more than a month ago and it’s still playing. That is rare for a foreign film.
The director went on to clarify his point saying that not only did Netflix give a wider audience a chance to see his film but that streaming platforms in general provide a wider diversity of opportunity for independent filmmakers.
Something that we have to be very conscious of is that the theatrical experience has become very gentrified to one specific kind of product. Right now, it is unquestionable that you have all these filmmakers—interesting filmmakers—doing films with different platforms because those platforms are not afraid of doing those films.
There are undoubtedly still a lot of kinks to be worked out in the straight-to-streaming model, but, as Cuarón says, executives on both sides of the debate have the opportunity to elevate cinema if only they’d stop bickering with each other.
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