The 2023 Berlin Film Festival will open Thursday with a live video message from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The festival confirmed what pretty much everyone had expected, that the Ukrainian leader would speak to the Berlinale audience, using the platform to call for solidarity with Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia.
Sean Penn — who co-directed the documentary with Aaron Kaufman Superpowera look at Zelensky and his wartime leadership, premiering in Berlin later this week — will give a live onstage introduction to the Zelensky video.
“The Berlinale, along with all filmmakers and participants, expresses solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their fight for its independence and strongly condemns the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine,” Berlinale co-directors Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian said in a statement announcing the news. “Our thoughts and sympathy are with the victims, the suffering population, the millions who left Ukraine and the artists who have remained defending the country and continue filming the war.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, Zelensky has been tireless in his use of media events to attract attention to his country’s cause and to drum up political and military support. In addition to speaking before Congress, the UK House of Parliament and Germany’s Bundestag, he has made numerous video appearances at major film festivals, including Cannes and Venice last year, and even sent a video message to the Grammys.
His audience in Berlin Wednesday night will include several political figures, among them German Culture Minister Claudia Roth and the Governing Mayor of Berlin Franziska Giffey. Also in the audience will be Berlinale jury president Kristen Stewart and the cast and crew of the opening night film: Rebecca Miller’s She Came to Me. Stars Anne Hathaway, Marisa Tomei, Peter Dinklage and Joanna Kulig are expected to be in attendance.
The Berlinale will livestream the event on its website, Berlinale.de, and on YouTube, and the gala will be broadcast in German-speaking Europe on public channels ZDF and 3Sat.
Zelensky is not expected to attend Berlin in person, although his wife, Olena Zelenska, may fly in to attend the world premiere of Superpower on Friday night.
Check the latest Hollywood news here.