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Berlinale 2023. Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian filmmakers at the opening of the festival

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Berlinale 2023 – i.e. the Berlin International Film Festival – began with a gala on Thursday evening at the Berlinale Palast. – Cinema cannot change the world, but it inspires, influences people who can change this world – said the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, who joined Berlin from Kiev, during the gala.

Berlinale 2023 began with the traditional inaugural gala, which took place on Thursday evening. The 73rd International Film Festival opened the latest film by the American filmmaker and writer Rebecca Miller “She Came To Me”. The main roles were played by Anne Hathaway (also co-producer of the film), Marisa Tomei, Peter Dinklage, Brian d’Arcy James and Joanna Kulig.

Berlinale 2023. Volodymyr Zelensky: cinema is able to overcome walls and barriers

During the ceremony, American filmmaker and actor Sean Penn announced a live connection with the president Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky. The audience gathered at the Berlinale Palast greeted Zelensky with a standing ovation.

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The Ukrainian president cited Wim Wenders’ 1987 film “Heaven Over Berlin,” saying that Wenders “tumbled down the Berlin Wall two years before it fell, showing that a divided city was brought together by angels flying freely over the wall.”

Volodymyr Zelensky during the opening gala of Berlinale 2023PAP/EPA/CLEMENS BILL

– Cinema is able to overcome the walls and barriers existing in the modern world. Today Russia wants to build a wall between Ukraine and Europe, to separate Ukraine from its future. It is a wall between freedom and enslavement, between progress and the ruins that the Russians are turning our country into, he said.

– Russia is destroying our cities, killing people, murdering women and children, threatening the world with a nuclear attack, allowing a global crisis. In the face of all this, should cinema remain outside politics? This issue is extremely topical again – the Ukrainian president rhetorically asked, reminding that the total war against Ukraine has been going on for almost a year.

Zelensky pointed out that where “a policy of aggression and terror is pursued, where there is a desire to destroy other countries and people”, culture cannot remain silent. – Culture cannot remain silent, because in this way it helps evil. Cinema cannot change the world, but it inspires and influences people who can change the world, he noted.

Jo Schueck and Sean Penn PAP/EPA/CLEMENS BALANCE

Berlinale 2023. Representatives of Ukrainian cinematography during the gala

The Thursday gala was also attended by representatives of Ukrainian cinematography. The ambassador of Ukraine was also present in the audience Germany Oleksiy Makeev.

This year’s edition of the Berlin festival did not consider films supported by the Russian and Iranian governments. The boycott of the official Iranian cinematography is an expression of solidarity with those who have been protesting since mid-September after the death of 22-year-old Kurdish Mahsa Amini. Demonstrations are brutally suppressed by the Iranian regime.

Berlinale 2023. Hathaway on “a hero of our times”

Anne Hathaway, the star and co-producer of She Came To Me, alluded to the fact that Zelenskiy would be attending the opening during the Thursday afternoon press conference.

“I would like to express my gratitude that the Berlinale invited a hero of our times and gave us all the opportunity to strengthen Ukraine’s message, which contains a universal desire for peace for almost everyone,” she said.

The stars and creators of “She Came To Me” before the press conferenceReuters

Berlinale 2023. “We express solidarity with the Ukrainian people”

Berlinale directors Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian announced that the Ukrainian president would give a speech during the gala in a statement published on Wednesday.

“Berlinale, together with all the filmmakers and participants, express solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their struggle for their own independence and strongly condemn the Russian aggression against Ukraine. Our thoughts and sympathy are with the victims, with the suffering population, with millions of those who left Ukraine and with the artists who stayed behind to defend their homeland and film the war. It is a great honor for us that we will be able to remotely host the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky during the opening of our festival on Thursday.

Earlier, on January 23, during a press conference, Chatrian announced that the latest film directed by Sean Penn and Aaron Kaufman “Superpower” will appear as part of the Berlinale Special Gala.

“Superpower” was originally supposed to be a film about Zelensky – a comedian who became president. Penn traveled to Kiev for the first time in November 2021. During the opening gala of the festival, the American filmmaker from the stage explained that the plan for this film had changed dramatically in reality. Finally, the portrait of Zelensky as a leader during the war was realized. Penn paid his second visit to Kiev at the end of February last year. He came to Berlin straight from Ukraine.

“It’s more than a documentary because ‘Superpower’ chronicles a film project that has been forced by reality to turn into something less controlled but much more significant. The festival, which takes place a year after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, is It’s important for us to show a film that Sean Penn and Aaron Kaufman made in very difficult conditions. Like their colleagues who risk their lives to create a testimony to the brutality of war, they (Penn and Kaufaman – ed.) prove once again that art can inspire the world to act” reads the festival’s description of the film.

Sean Penn and Volodymyr Zelensky in “Superpower” (dir. Sean Penn, Aaron Kaufman – Berlinale Special Gala 2023)© 2022. THE PEOPLE’S SERVANT, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED / Berlinale 2023

Author:Tomasz-Marcin Wrona

Main photo source: PAP/EPA/CLEMENS BILL



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