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Alfonso Cuaron Says He Owes ‘Roma’ in Part to Cannes’ Thierry Fremaux

At a special screening of “Roma” in Paris, Alfonso Cuaron said he owed the film to Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux, who encouraged him to return to Mexico to make a movie – and who, ironically, failed to nab the title for Cannes because of the festival’s spat with Netflix.

Fremaux was eager to select the film to compete at Cannes but could only offer it an out-of-competition slot because of a new rule, passed by Cannes’ board, requiring all competing films to have theatrical distribution in France. “Roma” world-premiered at the Venice Film Festival instead, where the Netflix-backed title won the Golden Lion. It’s now one of the favorites for the best picture Oscar.

While presenting the film Wednesday at the Max Linder Panorama single-screen theater in the heart of Paris, Cuaron recalled speaking to Fremaux about his next project while at the Morelia Film Festival in Mexico four years ago.

“There was a lot mezcal, and Thierry kept interrupting me and saying, ‘No, no, no, you have to go back to Mexico to make a film here,’ and he was pissing me off….In the days that followed, what [Fremaux] had told me was haunting me and I was offended – until ‘Roma’ came into my thoughts and changed everything,” Cuaron said.

The special screening in Paris was attended by French producers such as Marc Missonnier (“Django”); filmmakers including Houda Benyamina (“Divines”); and talent like Tahar Rahim (“Looming Towers”) – as well as Melanie Laurent (“Inglourious Basterds,” who was tapped to introduce Cuaron on stage and mistakenly referred to “Pan’s Labyrinth” as Cuaron’s film instead of fellow Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro’s.

Although Netflix has been successful as a streaming service in France, where it currently boasts more than 3 million subscribers, it has struggled with the country’s strict window release schedule, which prevents it from accessing movies until about three years after their theatrical release. Because of the local rules, Netflix said it won’t be hosting even a limited theatrical release for “Roma” in France as it is doing in the U.K. and Italy.

Fremaux has been in ongoing talks with Netflix to find a compromise that would allow the streaming giant to come back to Cannes. The artistic director has his eyes set on Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” which was bankrolled by Netflix and is expected to be ready for a May unspooling.

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