Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a surprise video speech at the opening ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday.
“Hundreds of people die every day. They will not rise again after the applause at the end,” he told the audience, who reacted with surprise when the pre-recorded message was introduced.
“Will the theater remain silent, or will it speak? If there is a dictator, if there is a war for freedom, everything again depends on our unity. Can films remain outside this unity?” Zelensky added.
Zelensky referred to the power of film during World War II, including the 1940 Charlie Chaplin film “The Great Dictator” which mocked Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
“Chaplin’s dictator did not destroy the real dictator, but thanks to films, thanks to this film, cinema did not remain silent,” Zelensky said.
“We need a new Chaplin to prove today that cinema is not dumb. Will cinema remain silent, or will it speak? Can cinema remain outside this?”
His speech received a standing ovation from the crowd in the Palais des Festivals of the southern French resort town.
The war is a dominant theme for the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, with a special day dedicated to Ukraine’s filmmakers at the industry market.
“Mariupolis 2”, a documentary about the conflict by Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius, who was allegedly killed by Russian forces in Ukraine last month, will have a special screening.
Zelensky also addressed the Grammy Awards ceremony in Las Vegas last month and told the crowd, “Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing for the wounded in hospitals.”
The opening ceremony in Cannes introduced the jury and presented an honorary Palme d’Or to actor and peace activist Forest Whitaker.
“The torments of the world, which are bleeding, suffering, burning … they are hurting my conscience,” French actor and jury president Vincent Lindon said in his speech.
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