Cannes. After a canceled edition in 2020 and a reduced meeting last year, the Cannes International Film Festival kicked off yesterday with an eye toward Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine and a live address by Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky via satellite.
Stars in full regalia including Eva Longoria, Julianne Moore, Bérénice Bejo and Lashana Lynch walked the famous red carpet for the opening of the 75th edition of the film meeting and the premiere of the zombie comedy by Michel Hazanavicius Final Cut.
More star-studded premieres await over the next 12 days, when 21 films will be screened in competition for the prestigious top prize: the Palme d’Or.
However, the opening and carefully choreographed parade on the carpet leading up the steps of the Grand Théâtre Lumière restored one of the greatest cinematic spectacles after two years of pandemic challenges.
However, the Russian military incursion into Ukraine was in the spotlight. During the opening ceremony, Volodymir Zelensky spoke at length about the connection between cinema and reality, referring to films such as apocalypse nowby Francis Ford Coppola, and The great Dictatorby Charlie Chaplin, as similar to the current circumstances of his country.
“Like back then, now a battle for freedom is being waged,” Zelensky told a star-studded auditorium, alluding to the first Cannes festival in 1946, just a year after World War II.
“We need a new Chaplin to show that cinema is not silent,” Zelensky added.
“Will the cinema remain silent or will it raise its voice? Can the cinema stay out of this? Today, cinema is not silent. Remember these words. Hate will end up disappearing, dictators will die”, he exclaimed. After the speech, the audience stood up to applaud him.
This year, the festival opened with the premiere of finalcut, which changed its original title from Z after Ukrainian protesters pointed out that the lyrics symbolize for some the support for the Russian military incursion. The theme is expected to have a constant presence at Cannes. The festival has banned Russians with ties to the government and will screen several films by prominent Ukrainian filmmakers, including Sergei Loznitsa’s documentary The Natural History of Destruction. Also, footage shot by Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius before he was assassinated in Mariupol in April will be presented by his fiancee, Hanna Bilobrova.
Almost no health protocols
After requiring regular COVID-19 tests and face masks in theaters last year and banning kissing on the red carpet, Cannes has largely scrapped pandemic protocols. Face masks are recommended indoors, but few wear them. “Dear friends, let’s get out of this darkness together,” said Virginie Efira, presenter of the opening ceremony.
Cannes presented an honorary Palme d’Or to Forest Whitaker, who received a thunderous ovation. The actor won the best actor award at the French meeting 24 years ago for his portrayal of Charlie Parker in Bird, by Clint Eastwood.
The jury that will choose the Palme d’Or winner was also presented yesterday. Actor Vincent Lindon chairs the group, which includes Deepika Padukone, Rebecca Hall, Asghar Farhadi, Trinca, Ladj Ly, Noomi Rapace, Jeff Nichols and Joachim Trier.
Questions about gender equality have long been raised at Cannes, where no more than five female filmmakers have competed for the Palme d’Or and only two have won it. On Monday, Thierry Frémaux, artistic director of the festival, defended him, arguing that he selects films solely on the basis of quality.
A total of 21 films compete for the highest award, reflecting a balance between commercial and auteur cinema. Today the contest will give way to Hollywood, with the participation of the American Tom Cruise with a new installment of topgun, emblematic film of the 1980s. Other awaited moments are the film Elvisfrom director Baz Luhrmann, about the king of rock’n’roll, and Crimes of the Future, by David Cronenberg, for lovers of bloody cinema.
The Russian Kirill Serebrennikov, critical of his government, the French Claire Denis, the veteran Belgian brothers Dardenne, or the Spanish Albert Serra, the only representative of Ibero-American cinema, compete for the Palme d’Or. Other authors are the South Korean Park Chan-Wook, the Japanese Hirokazu Kore-eda and the American James Gray.
Actor Tom Hanks plays Elvis Presley’s manager, Viggo Mortensen plays an artist who lets his guts open in the company of Léa Seydoux and Kristen Stewart, and Anthony Hopkins plays a tycoon in 1970s New York.
The Spanish actor Javier Bardem will also be present, who will hold a meeting with the public.
On the Ibero-American side, there will be, above all, the presence of young filmmakers, such as the Spanish Elena López Riera, with Water; Colombians Andrés Ramírez Pulido, with The pack, and Fabián Hernández, with A male, and Chilean Manuela Martelli, with 1976