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Zelenskyy tells filmmakers to stand for free speech at 75th Cannes Film Festival: ‘Fight the dictatorship’

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The 75th Cannes Film Festival Tuesday featured a video address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who encouraged filmmakers to utilize their talents to speak out against aggressive world leaders.

In his virtual address, Zelenskyy drew parallels between Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine and Nazi Germany during World War II. 

The Ukrainian president encouraged those who attended the French Riviera festival to stand up for free speech, especially in the faces of dictators who seek control.

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President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy appears via remote during the opening ceremony of the 75th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
(Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

“The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people,” Zelenskyy said, quoting Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” — a film that was banned in Germany for its satire of Adolf Hitler.

“We need a new Chaplin who will demonstrate that the cinema of our time is not silent,” he added.

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Festival workers pull the official poster into place at the Grand Theatre Lumiere during preparations for the 75th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Sunday, May 15, 2022. The Cannes film festival runs from May 17th until May 28th 2022. (AP Photo/Dejan Jankovic)

Festival workers pull the official poster into place at the Grand Theatre Lumiere during preparations for the 75th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Sunday, May 15, 2022. The Cannes film festival runs from May 17th until May 28th 2022. (AP Photo/Dejan Jankovic)

The Ukrainian president’s comments come amid a bloodied war on his homefront, which has persisted for over 80 days — the longest war in Europe since the Second World War. 

Cinema “is always on the side of freedom,” Zelenskyy said. 

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Later in the evening, Zelenskyy gave his nightly televised address to the Ukrainian people, where he echoed his remarks.

“I [am] reminded that now, as in the 1940s, it is necessary to boldly and openly defend freedom and fight the dictatorship. Right now is the time. When the language of cinematography can and should become the language of the struggle for freedom,” Zelenskyy said.

People walk along the Croisette prior to the 75th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Monday, May 16, 2022.The Cannes film festival runs from May 17th until May 28th 2022. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

People walk along the Croisette prior to the 75th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Monday, May 16, 2022.The Cannes film festival runs from May 17th until May 28th 2022. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

He added: “As in the days of World War II, the struggle for freedom can rely in particular on the power of art.”

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The Cannes festival, which barred Russian filmmakers and others with ties to the government from attending this year, kicked off with French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius’ zombie comedy “Final Cut.” The film’s name was changed from “Z” as the letter drew comparisons to Russia’s military, which has adopted the letter to support its invasion of Ukraine.

The event also featured the works of several prominent Ukrainian filmmakers, including Sergei Loznitsa’s documentary “The Natural History of Destruction.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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