The Cannes Film Festival opens with a video address by Zelenskyy

CANNES, France (AP) – The 75th Cannes Film Festival kicked off Tuesday with a look at Russia’s war in Ukraine and a live satellite video address from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who called on a new generation of filmmakers to take on dictators as Charlie Chaplin satirized Adolf Hitler.

After tributes and musical numbers, Zelenskyy was streamed live for the festively dressed audience gathered for the premiere of Michel Hazanavicius’ zombie comedy Final Cut.

Dressed in his signature olive green shirt, Zelenskyy received a thunderous standing ovation and spoke at length about the connection between cinema and reality. He pointed to films such as Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, which are not dissimilar to current circumstances in Ukraine.

Zelenskyi quoted Chaplin’s last speech in The Great Dictator, published in 1940, in the early days of World War II: “The hatred of men will pass away, and the dictators will die, and the power they have taken from the people the people will return.”

“We need a new Chaplin who shows that the cinema of our time is not silent,” Zelenskyy said.

The Ukrainian President urged filmmakers not to “silence” as hundreds continue to die in Ukraine, the worst war in Europe since World War II, and to show that cinema “always stands on the side of freedom”.

The war is said to be a regular feature at Cannes, where the festival this year banned Russians with government ties from attending. Several films by prominent Ukrainian filmmakers will be shown, including the documentary The Natural History of Destruction by Sergei Loznitsa. Footage filmed by Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius before he was killed in Mariupol in April will also be shown by his fiancee Hanna Bilobrova.

Even Final Cut, the latest film from The Artist filmmaker Hazanavicius, has been renamed from its original title to Z after Ukrainian protesters noted that the letter Z, for some, symbolizes support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Formally dressed stars like Eva Longoria, Julianne Moore, Bérénice Bejo and ‘No Time To Die’ star Lashana Lynch were among those who streamed down the famous Cannes red carpet on Tuesday. Other star-studded premieres – “Top Gun: Maverick!” “Elvis!” – await you over the next 12 days as 21 films will compete for the festival’s prestigious top prize, the Palme d’Or.

But Tuesday’s opening and the meticulously choreographed red carpet parade that climbed the steps to the Grand Théâtre Lumiére re-enacted one of film’s biggest pageants, after two years of pandemic that have turned Cannes’ lofty stature to cinema every year here.

“Dear friends, let’s emerge from this darkness together,” said Virginie Efira, host of the opening ceremony.

After requiring regular COVID-19 testing and masks in cinemas last year – and no kissing on the red carpet – Cannes has largely scrapped pandemic protocols. Masks are recommended inside but rarely worn.

Cannes presented Forest Whitaker with an honorary Palme d’Or, which received a standing ovation. Whitaker, who won Best Actor at Cannes 34 years ago for his performance as Charlie Parker in Clint Eastwood’s Bird, said he was still chanting “Clint! Clint!” Ringing in his ears. Eastwood is one of only a few others to have been awarded a Palm of Honor.

On Tuesday, Cannes also presented the jury that will award the Palme d’Or. French actor Vincent Lindon chairs a jury that includes Deepika Padukone, Rebecca Hall, Asghar Farhadi, Trinca, Ladj Ly, Noomi Rapace, Jeff Nichols and Joachim Trier.

Gender equality issues have long surrounded the Cannes Film Festival, where no more than five female filmmakers have ever been part of the Palme competition and only two female directors have won it. On Monday, Fremaux defended the festival, arguing that it selects films purely on quality. Hall, who made her directorial debut with last year’s film Passing, was asked for her opinion on Cannes’ record.

“I think it’s a work in progress. I mean for the entire film industry, not just the Cannes Film Festival,” Hall replied. “Dealing with these things must also be tackled at the grassroots level. It’s not just the festivals or public situations. It’s about all the little things that go into the industry as a whole.”

Farhadi, the Oscar-winning Iranian director, also spoke for the first time about an ongoing plagiarism lawsuit regarding his previous film, A Hero, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes last year. A former Farhadi film student, Azadeh Masihzadeh, has accused him of stealing the idea of ​​the film from a 2018 documentary she shot at a workshop Farhadi led.

At length, Farhadi said that “A Hero” is not based on the documentary.

“It was based on a recent event, so this documentary and this film are based on an event that happened two years before the workshop,” Farhadi said. “If an event takes place and it gets press coverage, then it becomes public knowledge and you can do whatever you want with the event. You can write a story or make a film about the event. You can look up the information about this event. ‘A hero’ is just one interpretation of that event.”

In storied Cannes, the world’s largest and most dazzling film temple, cinema, controversy and glamor swirl together in a 12-day spectacle of red-carpet premieres and rampant film shops up and down the Croisette. Theatrical release is a requirement for any film vying for the palm, which has prevented streaming services from playing a big role in Cannes.

But this year, a new festival partner – TikTok – has raised some eyebrows. The festival hosts TikTok creators from all over the world and has a separate competition for the best (very short) videos created during the festival. Thierry Fremaux, artistic director of Cannes, acknowledged that TikTok is not the future of cinema.

“Cinema remains the ultimate art,” said Fremaux.

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