Netflix says sorry, but keeps Lac-Mégantic footage in Bird Box

Netflix Inc. apologized for inadvertently using images of a deadly Quebec rail disaster in Bird Box, but it won’t be removing the controversial footage from its hit horror movie.

In a letter to Quebec Culture Minister Nathalie Roy that was shared with Bloomberg, the entertainment company said it wasn’t aware of the stock footage’s source and expressed regret at the suffering caused to the community of Lac-Mégantic, where 47 people died in a 2013 accident.

Much of downtown Lac-Megantic was destroyed when an unattended train carrying oil rolled down a hill, derailed and exploded on a Friday night in July 2013, in what would become Canada’s worst railway disaster in a century.
Much of downtown Lac-Megantic was destroyed when an unattended train carrying oil rolled down a hill, derailed and exploded on a Friday night in July 2013, in what would become Canada’s worst railway disaster in a century.  (FRANCOIS LAPLANTE-DELAGRAVE / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Roy wrote to Netflix chief executive officer Reed Hastings last week to ask for the removal of images, which were spotted in both Bird Box and the series Travelers.

The production company for Travelers, Peacock Alley Entertainment, told Canadian Press last week that it plans to replace the footage in the show. Bird Box, meanwhile, was produced by Netflix itself.

“The use of stock footage is a widespread and long-standing practice in the film and television industry,” Netflix Public Policy Director Corie Wright said in the letter.

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“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.”

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The tragedy of Lac-Mégantic is still fresh in the province’s memory. Much of downtown was destroyed when an unattended train carrying oil rolled down a hill, derailed and exploded in July 2013, in what would become Canada’s worst rail disaster in a century.

Quebec’s Roy welcomed the apology but lamented the company’s “incoherent” approach in keeping the images in Bird Box while they are removed from another show.

Los Gatos, California-based Netflix said it would avoid using the images or similar footage in future productions.

“Going forward, we (and the broader industry) can do better,” Wright said.

TORONTO STAR

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