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Zelenskyy urges Cannes filmmakers not to be silent

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks via video during the opening of the  Cannes film festival on Tuesday.
Andreas Rentz
/
Getty Images
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks via video during the opening of the Cannes film festival on Tuesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave an impassioned speech at the opening ceremonies of the 75th Cannes Film Festival on the French Riviera on Tuesday.

He told the elegantly dressed audience, "Hundreds of people are dying every day. They won't get up again after the clapping at the end."

In a video message, Zelenskyy said the film industry needed a new Charlie Chaplin who would prove that today's cinema isn't "silent." He also showed a clip from Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now.

Speaking in Ukrainian, Zelenskyy quoted from Chaplin's final speech in The Great Dictator, "Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical."

"I am convinced," said Zelenskyy, "that the dictator is going to lose."

After showing a clip from Apocalypse Now, Zelenskyy told the audience that the war scenes are "terrible" on the screen, "but they've become a reality." He talked about the constant attacks and the hundreds of people dying every day. "Will the cinema keep quiet or will it speak up?" He continued, "Everything depends on our unity."

Cannes officials barred Russians connected to Putin's government from participating in this year's festival. Films to be shown include the documentary The Natural History of Destruction by Sergey Loznitsa who was born in Belarus and educated in Ukraine and Russia. According to the synopsis, the World War II film asks the question, "Is it morally acceptable to use civilian population as a means of war?" The festival also includes Mariupolis 2, the final film by Lithuanian documentarian Mantas Kvedaravicius who was killed while reporting from Ukraine. His widow, Hanna Bilobrova, who was with him at the time, will introduce the film.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.