At the opening of the Berlinale, Zelensky calls on art and cinema to engage

&At the opening of the Berlinale, Zelensky calls on art and cinema to commit


“Cinema (…) can inspire and influence people who can change the world”, declared Volodymyr Zelensky at the opening of the Berlinale, who decided to shine his spotlight on the 'Ukraine. 

“Culture and cinema cannot be outside of politics, when it comes to a policy of aggression, mass crimes, murders, terror (…) a policy of total war like is that of Russia”, continued the Ukrainian president, speaking by video.

The leader is at the center of the documentary event of this festival, “Superpower”, filmed by Sean Penn in full Russian invasion almost a year ago, and which is to be presented on Saturday.

“In these times, art cannot be neutral” and if culture “remains silent, it contributes to evil”, continued the one who was an actor before being elected president, thanking the German festival which has programmed several films Ukrainians and repainted its Golden Bear in yellow and blue, the colors of Ukraine.

Returning from a stay in Kiev, Sean Penn himself, moved, testified on stage to the state of mind of the Ukrainians which, according to him, has “not changed” since the invasion: “their will is simply reinforced added the American actor and director.

“There is an extraordinary solidarity and unity that should inspire us all”.

Zelensky, who has previously called for support from the world of cinema at the opening of the last Cannes Film Festival, had been described earlier in the day as “a hero of our time” by the American actress Anne Hathaway.

This presented “She Came To Me”, an out-of-competition film which opens the festival, where she plays alongside Peter Dinklage, one of the main actors of “Game of Thrones”, and Marisa Tomei, seen notably in several Marvels.

“Crumbled World”

Anne Hathaway thanked the Berlinale “for giving everyone the opportunity to amplify Ukraine's message: the almost universal desire for peace”.

The president of the jury, Kristen Stewart, said for her part that “in response to a world that is collapsing around us (…), this is a huge opportunity to be able to showcase magnificent things”.

A message heard by two climate activists who, during the opening festivities, broke through security barriers and glued their hands to the red carpet with goo.

In line with similar actions organized for months across Germany, these activists call to “prevent the race towards a climatic hell that will kill billions”, according to a press release.

At 32, Kristen Stewart is the youngest president of the jury in the history of the Berlin festival, the third in Europe behind Cannes and Venice.

From the “Twilight” series to independent cinema, at Olivier Assayas in particular, the American actress has, at her side, a mainly female jury, with the Iranian actress exiled in France Golshifteh Farahani, seen in Hollywood in particular in “Paterson”, or the Spaniard Carla Simon, winner of the Golden Bear 2022 with “Our Suns”.

“It's very symbolic to be in Berlin, the city where the wall fell” in a world where another wall is currently erected against freedom, said the Iranian artist, in reference to Ukraine, but also to Iran.

His country, where director Jafar Panahi has just been released on bail after seven months in prison, will also have a prominent place in a Berlinale which aims to be the voice of artists in resistance.

Saturday, an exceptional climb of the steps is planned, in solidarity with the Iranians.

Several films on this country are registered in parallel sections and discussion sessions will take place will focus on developments in the protest movement against the regime that has erupted since September.

As for the stars, several are back at the Festival. American Steven Spielberg will come to present his most autobiographical film (“The Fabelmans”) and will be awarded an Honorary Golden Bear for a career that changed the history of cinema, from “Jaws” to “E.T.”