Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy opens Cannes Film Festival, asks filmmakers to confront dictators
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, dressed in his signature olive green shirt, drew a thunderous standing ovation as he spoke at length about the connection between cinema and reality.
The 75th Cannes Film Festival kicked off Tuesday with an eye turned to Russia’s war in Ukraine and a live satellite video address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who called on a new generation of filmmakers to confront dictators as Charlie Chaplin satirized Adolf Hitler.
After tributes and musical numbers, Zelenskyy was streamed live for the formally attired audience who had gathered for the premiere of Michel Hazanavicius’ zombie comedy Final Cut.
Zelenskyy, dressed in his signature olive green shirt, drew a thunderous standing ovation and and spoke at length about the connection between cinema and reality. He referenced films like Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator as not unlike Ukraine’s present circumstances.
Zelenskyy quoted Chaplin’s final speech in The Great Dictator, which was released in 1940, in the early days of World War II: “The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.”
“We need a new Chaplin who will demonstrate that the cinema of our time is not silent,” implored Zelenskyy.
The Ukrainian president pushed filmmakers not to “stay silent” while hundreds continue to die in Ukraine, the largest war in Europe since WWII, and show that cinema “is always on the side of freedom.”
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The war is to be a regular presence in Cannes, where the festival has barred Russians with ties to the government from attending this year. Set to screen are several films from prominent Ukrainian filmmakers, including Sergei Loznitsa’s documentary The Natural History of Destruction. Footage shot by Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius before he was killed in Mariupol in April will also be shown by his fiancée, Hanna Bilobrova.
Even Final Cut, the latest film from The Artist filmmaker Hazanavicius, was renamed from its original title, Z, after Ukrainian protesters noted that the letter Z to some symbolizes support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.