Netflix tried to squash their beef with Canadian citizens who were upset to see real footage from a deadly train wreck in Quebec appear in some of the streaming service's original content. The streaming service apologized to the Mayor of Lac-Mégantic, a city still reeling after 47 people died and much of its downtown was destroyed in 2013 when a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded.
Imagery from that event has been used in an episode of Netflix's sci-fi series Travelers and their blockbuster movie Bird Box. Quebec's minister of culture, Nathalie Roy, sent a letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings asking that the footage be removed from their content.
While Peacock Alley Entertainment, the production company behind Travelers, agreed to replace the disaster footage in the series, Netflix is keeping it in Bird Box.
In a response letter sent last week to Roy, Netflix promised not to use the footage again and assured they would incorporate better practices for choosing certain imagery. However, they explained that the image came from Pond 5, a company that sells stock images. “As a result, stock images are commonly used within content on Netflix and on other services. This widespread use prevents us from making the changes you request on finished content,” the letter reads.
That didn't seem to quell the anger, however. On Wednesday, Canadian parliament got involved, passing a motion demanding that the streaming service compensate the people of Lac-Mégantic. The parliament’s motion is non-binding, so it’s more of a public statement that acknowledges the bad blood.
Pierre Nantel, who introduced Wednesday’s motion, said, “We know people are going to go and watch this film, and again these real images will be used. For people in Lac-Mégantic, they saw images of their own downtown burning, and could imagine their own family members in it." Since parliament passed Nantel’s motion, Netflix has only referred back to their previous letter refusing to remove the scene.
It is a pretty common practice for fictional movies to weave in footage of real-world events to add color and save money on, say, apocalyptic explosions. But the morality of that has rarely been called out so clearly and vehemently by affected communities. If it's a question of morality, the answer seems to remain unclear.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.