The Ukrainian President was connected via video: The International Film Festival has opened in Berlin. Volodymyr Zelenskyj made an emotional appeal to filmmakers and artists on Thursday evening to support his country after the Russian attack. "Can art stay out of politics?" he asked at the opening gala. The question is now extremely important again.
Both the festival organizers and Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth assured Ukraine of solidarity. The audience gave Selenskyj a standing ovation. In a week it will be the anniversary of the beginning of the war. In his video address, Zelenskyj emphasized that cinema and film could overcome barriers, both real and ideological.
Selenskyj is reminiscent of a well-known German film
The former actor recalled Wim Wenders' film "Der Himmel über Berlin", which anticipated the end of the division of Germany. Today it is Russia that is building a new wall in Ukraine. "It's a wall between freedom and slavery." Selenskyj accused the Russian attackers of mass crimes, murder, terror and a "policy of total war". Art cannot remain indifferent, because in silence the "voice of evil only becomes louder and more convincing".
The US actor and director Sean Penn, who is showing his film "Superpower" at the Berlinale, also spoke before Selenskyj's video switch at the opening gala. Penn began filming alongside fellow actor Aaron Kaufman in Ukraine in early 2021. During filming on February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine. The film then turned out very differently than planned, said Penn.
Berlinale is one of the most important film festivals
Minister of State for Culture Roth also recalled the importance of culture in times of war and crisis. "Anyone who makes films and who shows films in dark times resists bondage," said the Green politician. The Berlinale celebrated the power of film in dark and bright times: "The culture of democracy, the culture of diversity and understanding."
Along with Cannes and Venice, the Berlinale is one of the most important film festivals. This Friday, the first films will be in the running for the Golden Bear, including the literary adaptation "One day we'll tell each other everything". The film by director Emily Atef is based on the novel of the same name by Daniela Krien. A total of 19 films are running in the competition this time. Jury President Kristen Stewart will decide together with other filmmakers who will receive an award. The Berlinale wants to show a total of around 280 films in around a week and a half.
White banner for the people of Iran
During the festival, the situation of the people in Iran should also be remembered. Several women held up a white banner on the red carpet Thursday night that read something like "Woman Life Freedom." Actress Golshifteh Farahani also drew attention to the situation in her country on stage: "This regime will fall."
A number of film stars came to Berlin, such as actress Anne Hathaway, actor Peter Dinklage and this year's jury president Kristen Stewart. The comedy "She Came to Me" by director Rebecca Miller was chosen as the opening film.
Protests by the Last Generation group
Before the gala, activists from the climate group Last Generation also protested. They taped themselves in front of the building. A young man and a young woman sat on the edge of the red carpet. There were no major disturbances. According to a statement from the group, the two activists had overcome a barrier. The group calls for a radical change in climate and keeps sticking to the streets to disrupt traffic. At the beginning of the protest, the guests were already in the hall, the red carpet was largely empty.