Beasts of no Nation: A New Wild Animal in a Colonized Landscape

Beasts of no Nation

Maybe you’ve heard about this recently released film, and maybe you haven’t. If you haven’t, it’s ok. The launch publicity and release for this film is a bit different than usual, and there’s something very special about it – and it’s not a new special effect technique, or a sharp new camera used to film it—it’s the way that it was released into the wild for movie-goers. This film marks the first time a full length feature film was released online and in theaters simultaneously. Why is this significant? In order for the film to be eligible for the coveted Oscar award, it must be released online “on or after the first day” it is shown in theaters. While this may not seem like a big deal, it has traditionally been impossible to accommodate this kind of release.

The movie industry has been feeding itself by limiting distribution and viewing licenses across the board for decades: setting dates with distributors about when they can release a film for personal home viewing, forcing movie theaters to abide by obviously one-sided ticket royalty percentages based off of a movie’s release timeline and popularity, and making sure that they are not ousted from their seat of authority by “newcomers” of the 21st century. These kind of rules make it economically suicidal to a distributor like Netflix or Redbox to accommodate the kind of royalty structuring that movie studios have in place. Unless you completely take theses studios out of the equation.

Netflix, by taking full control and ownership over this film, navigates around these royalty structures, and provides their film to theaters and streamers alike, without having to worry about paying a movie studio their cut off of the top of any potential income or deal with their tightly controlled release timeline. And while that is a huge benefit for any movie distributors to have this option, it also opens a very distinct possibility for independent film-makers. While many TV and movie producers have started to take advantage of the Netflix only distribution method, rather than deal with big production companies, it is now proven possible to achieve this “same day release” status and make their small-budget big-ambitioned projects eligible for consideration for the coveted Oscar nomination and/or award.

But all of that being said, is this movie any good? I can’t say personally, but I am making it a point to sit down and watch it soon – at least to give a small jab to the movie studio establishment that has forced me to buy overpriced popcorn and soda for decades—but also because it genuinely looks good, and focuses on an issue and geographical region toward which many Americans routinely turn a blind eye. And I have to give props to the creative movie title which speaks to more than its hinted storyline, it also speaks to its “non-allegiance” to any specific long standing movie studio—and the beast to which this film could become to all of those established “nations”.