CANNES, France — The 75th Cannes Film Festival kicked off on Tuesday with an eye on Russia’s war in Ukraine and a live satellite video address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who called for a new generation of filmmakers to stand up to dictators. as Charlie Chaplin satirized Adolf Hitler.
After tributes and musical numbers, Zelensky was broadcast live to the formal-dressed audience who had gathered for the premiere of Michel Hazanavicius’ zombie comedy “Final Cut.”
Zelensky, dressed in his signature olive green shirt, drew a thunderous standing ovation and spoke at length about the connection between film and reality. He referred to films like Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’ and Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’ as being reminiscent of the current situation in Ukraine.
Zelensky quoted Chaplin’s last speech in “The Great Dictator,” which was published in 1940, at the start of World War II: “The hatred of men will pass, and dictators will die, and the power they have taken to the people will come to the people.”
“We need a new Chaplin who will demonstrate that the cinema of our time is not silent”, implored Zelensky.
Ukraine’s president urged filmmakers not to “keep silent” as hundreds continue to die in Ukraine, Europe’s biggest war since World War II, and to show that cinema “is always on the side of the freedom”.
The war is to be a regular presence at Cannes, where the festival has banned Russians with government ties from attending this year. Several films by prominent Ukrainian filmmakers will be screened, including Sergei Loznitsa’s documentary “The Natural History of Destruction”. Footage shot by Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius before his assassination in Mariupol in April will also be released by his fiancée, Hanna Bilobrova.
Even ‘Final Cut’, the latest film from filmmaker ‘The Artist’ Hazanavicius, was renamed from its original title, ‘Z’, after Ukrainian protesters noted that the letter Z for some symbolized support for war. from Russia to Ukraine.
Stars dressed as Eva Longoria, Julianne Moore, Berenice Bejo and “No Time to Die” star Lashana Lynch were among those who walked the famous Cannes red carpet on Tuesday. More star-studded premieres – “Top Gun: Maverick!” “Elvis! — await you over the next 12 days, during which 21 films will compete for the festival’s prestigious prize, the Palme d’Or.
But Tuesday’s opening and carefully choreographed red carpet parade leading to the steps of the Grand Théâtre Lumière restored one of cinema’s greatest spectacles once again after a two-year pandemic that has challenged the elated stature that Cannes sheds each year. on cinema.
“Dear friends, let’s come out of this darkness together,” said opening ceremony host Virginie Efira.
After last year requiring regular COVID-19 testing and masks in theaters — and no kisses on the red carpet — Cannes has largely scrapped pandemic protocols. Masks are recommended indoors but are rarely worn.
Cannes awarded an honorary Palme d’or to Forest Whitaker, who 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 as he climbed the steps of the Palais des Festivals on Tuesday he could still hear the chants of “Clint! Clint!” ring in his ears. Eastwood is one of the few to have received an honorary Palme.
On Tuesday, Cannes also unveiled the jury that will award the Palme d’Or. French actor Vincent Lindon leads a jury made up of 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 directors have ever been part of the Palme competition lineup and only two female directors have won it. On Monday, Fremaux defended the festival, arguing that it selects films solely on the basis of quality. Hall, who made her directorial debut last year with the film ‘Passing’, was asked about her opinion on the Cannes record.
“I believe it is a work in progress. I mean for the entire film industry, not just the Cannes Film Festival,” Hall replied. “How to deal with these things also needs to be addressed at the local level. It’s not just festivals or public situations. It’s all about the minutiae of what’s going on in the industry in general.
Farhadi, the Oscar-winning Iranian director, also spoke for the first time about an ongoing plagiarism lawsuit over his previous film, A Hero, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes last year. A former film student of Farhadi, Azadeh Masihzadeh, accused him of stealing the idea for the film from a 2018 documentary she made in a workshop taught by Farhadi.
Speaking at length, Farhadi said “A Hero” was not based on the documentary.
“It was based on a current event, so this documentary and film is based on an event that happened two years before the workshop,” Farhadi said. “When an event takes place and is covered by the press, then it becomes public and you can do whatever you want with the event. You can write a story or make a movie about the event. You can view information about this event. “A hero” is only one interpretation of this event. »
In Cannes, the world’s largest and most glitzy temple to film, film, controversy and glamor mingle in a 12-day spectacle of red carpet premieres and frantic film deals on the Croisette. Theatrical release is a requirement of any film vying for the Palme, which has kept streaming services from playing a big role at Cannes.
But this year, a new festival partner – TikTok – has raised some eyebrows. The festival welcomes TikTok creators from all over the world and organizes a separate competition for the best (very short) videos created during the festival. Thierry Fremaux, artistic director of Cannes, has acknowledged that TikTok is not the future of cinema.
“Cinema remains the ultimate art”, said Fremaux.