Cannes opens with Zelenskiy appeal

Mimosa SpencerAP
President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to the Cannes opening ceremony via a live video link from Kyiv.
Camera IconPresident Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to the Cannes opening ceremony via a live video link from Kyiv. Credit: EPA

The Cannes Film Festival has opened with crowded red carpet arrivals, a star-studded ceremony and a call from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the world of cinema to speak out against the war.

"We need a new (Charlie) Chaplin to prove that today cinema is not silent," said Zelenskiy, referring to Charlie Chaplin's satire of Adolf Hitler at the outset of World War II in 1939.

"We must be victorious. We need cinema to guarantee this ending, that each time it will be on the side of freedom," the Ukraine leader said through a live video link from Kyiv during the opening ceremony on Tuesday, marking a sombre note in the otherwise festive proceedings.

Event organisers had rolled out the red carpet earlier in the day, as cinema stars, festival-goers and oglers gathered for the 75th anniversary event, bringing buzz and glamour back to the French Riviera resort, as well as discussions about the role of cinema during times of conflict.

The event was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic and was held as a scaled-back gathering in 2021. But after last year requiring regular COVID-19 testing and masks in theatres - and no kisses on the red carpet - Cannes has largely done away with pandemic protocols.

"This year, everyone wanted to come to Cannes," said Thierry Fremaux, artistic director of the festival, ahead of the opening.

"Everyone wanted to meet again."

The festival began with the screening of zombie film Final Cut, by Michel Hazanavicius, who was joined by cast members Berenice Bejo and Romain Duris on the red carpet.

In the opening ceremony, festival president Pierre Lescure handed Forest Whitaker an Honorary Palme d'Or for lifetime achievement, prompting a standing ovation.

"An honorary Palme to the artist, the filmmaker, the UNESCO ambassador, simply, a citizen of the world," Lescure said.

The actor's production company is showing For the Sake of Peace, a documentary on the war in South Sudan.

The world's biggest film festival runs from May 17-28 and will include screenings of Hollywood titles including Tom Cruise's Top Gun: Maverick and Baz Luhrmann's musical drama Elvis.

Also 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 Kvedaravicius before he was killed in Mariupol in April will also be shown by his fiancee Hanna Bilobrova.

The festival has barred Russians with ties to the government.

Reuters with AP

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