Netflix makes big splash in Venice's film lagoon

Thu Sep 3, 2015 12:19pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

VENICE (Reuters) - Venice may be the world's oldest film festival, but this year it is pioneering what may well become the future of cinema as Netflix screens two films here, one of them its first feature and a contender for the top prize.

"Beasts of No Nation" stars Idris Elba -- who previously portrayed Nelson Mandela in the biopic "Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom" -- as an African warlord who uses young boys as child soldiers.

Billed as a "Netflix Original Film", it is based on the novel of the same name by Uzodinma Iweala and is directed by American Cary Fukunaga ("Sin Nombre", "Jane Eyre").

Another Netflix film being shown out of competition is the documentary "Winter on Fire" about the 2014 Maidan protests that brought down the Ukrainian government.

The Internet entertainment company's big-time presence at one of Europe's most prestigious festivals has drawn a lot of attention.

In some quarters Netflix is seen as a challenge to the traditional movie distribution business, particularly the multiplexes which normally might pick up a film starring Elba, who is frequently touted as possible James Bond material.

"What's interesting about Netflix being here is that like Amazon, like other companies that aren't necessarily known for original content, they're really beginning to put something out, they're expanding themselves," Jay Weissberg, European-based critic for trade publication Variety, told Reuters.

"Is it a game changer? It's difficult to tell at this point."   Continued...

American director Cary Fukunaga poses during the photocall for the movie " Beasts Of No Nation"  at the 72nd Venice Film Festival, northern Italy September 3, 2015.  REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini