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The Berlin Film Festival opens with a video message from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

The 2023 Berlin Film Festival will open on Thursday with a live video message from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The festival confirmed what virtually everyone had expected, which was that the Ukrainian leader would address the audience at the Berlinale and use 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 later this week in Berlin — provides a live on-stage introduction to the Zelensky video.

“The Berlinale, together with all filmmakers and participants, expresses solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their struggle for its independence and strongly condemns the Russian offensive war against Ukraine,” Berlinale co-directors Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian said in a statement announcing The news. “Our thoughts and condolences are with the victims, the suffering population, the millions who have left Ukraine and the artists who have continued to defend the country and film the war.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine last February, Zelensky has been tireless in using media events to raise awareness of his country’s cause and gain political and military support. In addition to speaking before Congress, the British House of Parliament and the German 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, including German Culture Minister Claudia Roth and Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey. Also in the audience will be Berlinale judge Kristen Stewart and the cast and crew of the opening film: Rebecca Miller’s She came to me. Stars Anne Hathaway, Marisa Tomei, Peter Dinklage and Joanna Kulig are expected to attend.

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 come to Berlin in person, although his wife, Olena Zelenska, may fly over to attend the world premiere of Superpower on fridaynight.

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