In an open letter to Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick and German culture and media commissioner Monika Grütters, 160 independent exhibitors are calling for Isabel Coixet’s competition film “Elisa y Marcela” to be shown out of competition.
“We, the independent arthouse cinema operators in Germany, do not agree with the fact that ‘Elisa y Marcela,’ by Isabel Coixet, a film that will not have normal theatrical distribution but will only be seen on Netflix, is being shown,” the exhibitors wrote. “We therefore demand that the film be shown out of competition.”
The cinema operators said they had taken the step to protest the fact that Netflix was using “the big festivals and film awards as a marketing platform and diminishing the position of cinema as a place of culture. The Berlinale stands for the big screen, Netflix the small screen.”
The demand was echoed by the International Confederation of Art Cinemas (CICAE).
“Should the film be released on a streaming platform without having been through a theatrical release, it could mean that the competition of the Berlinale would – like earlier the Mostra de Venise, in contrast to the Festival de Cannes – [would be] open to a company that boycotts the international agreements related to the release windows of films,” CICAE said in a statement.
“Either the Berlinale is a film festival and shows only works destined for the cinema or it’s not a film festival anymore and is on its way of becoming a TV or platform festival,” said CICAE president Detlef Rossmann.
The organization added that the Berlinale was a publicly funded festival “and its competition should be reserved exclusively to films that will have a regular theatrical release.”
That is the only way to ensure “works of film art get can be admired on the big screen and can serve to enrich the public discourse,” the CICAE said, noting that its demands correspond to Grütters’ own statements on the issue.
Responding to the letter, Berlinale spokeswoman Frauke Greiner said: “According to the current Berlinale guidelines for submission, films that are intended for cinema release – no matter the region – are eligible for selection. This means that, in principle, we do not reject films from streaming platforms if a theatrical release prior to the platform release is planned. This is the case for ‘Elisa y Marcela.’”
The film is set to premiere in Berlin on Wednesday
Netflix’s third Spanish original film, “Elisa y Marcela” tells the story of two girls who develop a romantic relationship in 1880s Spain and seek a shared life together as they struggle with their forbidden love. The pic is produced by Rodar y Rodar, Legal Zenit TV and La Nube Películas.