Through a live video connection from Kyiv, Zelensky delivered an emotional message about the responsibility of filmmaking in the face of violence. Before becoming president, Zelensky was a satirical actor and he named Charlie Chaplin‘s “The Great Dictator” as one of the films that depict the ambiguities of combat.
“The most brutal dictators of the 20th century loved cinema,” Zelensky said during his speech, adding that the majority of films made about them were “horrific documentaries and newsreels.”
“On February 24, Russia began a war of huge proportion against Ukraine with the intention of going further into Europe… Hundreds of people die every day. They are not going to get up after the end,” the 44-year-old president said.
“Will cinema stay silent, or will it talk about it? If there is a dictator, if there is a war for freedom, again, it all depends on our unity. Can cinema stay out of this unity? We need a new [Charlie] Chaplin who will prove that, in our time, cinema is not silent,” he added.
Zelensky further emphasised, “It’s necessary for cinema not to be silent…I say to everyone who hears me: Do not despair. Hatred will eventually disappear and dictators will die. We have to win this victory and we need cinema to ensure that this end is always on the side of freedom.”
Without identifying Putin, Zelensky continued, “I’m sure that the dictator will lose. We will win this war. Glory to Ukraine .”
When questioned after the speech about how Cannes managed to attract Zelensky on board, Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux replied, “We are Cannes.”
Last month, Zelensky addressed the guests at the 2022 Grammys, but he did not appear at the 94th Academy Awards, despite co-host Amy Schumer and Sean Penn asking for him to be invited.
“We are more independent,” Frémaux said of the Academy’s refusal to include Zelensky in the Oscars. “And you know, we did not know what he was going to say. It was not possible. We made some suggestions to his people. In a way, what he said was an encouragement for the 12-day festival.”
“He never mentioned Putin,” Frémaux said, applauding the speech. “That was good. It was a way to say, ‘This is one situation, but there are others with the same problem.’”
The speech was part of a new agreement to broadcast the ceremony on French public television. The address was broadcast in every French-speaking country.
“Coupéz,” a French-language zombie comedy directed by Michel Hazanavicius, was the 2022 Cannes Opening Night film.