President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine made an impassioned speech on Wednesday during the Venice Film Festival’s opening ceremony, pleading for the global film community to rally to the country’s cause as it suffers a a mounting death toll amid fierce fighting with Russia.
“Personalities of culture: directors, producers and actors, screenwriters, cameramen, composers, artistic directors, set designers, critics and many, many more, from many countries in the world, all belonging to the same family of cinema!,” Zelenskyy said in a recorded speech beamed onto the festival’s Sala Grande screen.
“Your opinion is important and your voice counts.”
“The least that you can do – or what you should not do – is don’t be afraid. Don’t turn your back to us. Don’t go beyond. Don’t stay neutral,” the Ukrainian president added.
Zelenskyy went on to point out that he was appealing specifically to the world of film and culture because “For some, power consists only in missiles and nuclear weapons; while for us power resides in philosophy, in a mentality, in reason and in words.”
The Ukrainian president went on to make his plea:
“I would like each country, each nation, each institution, each community in the world to clearly understand what Ukraine is currently going through.”
“We have to talk about this war with the most clear language possible: the language of cinema, the language that you all talk.”
Then came the harrowingly cinematic aspect of Zelenskyy’s Venice Film Festival speech.
“You will not see the tragic scenes of explosions; the shootings; the ruins with billowing smoke. The pain and the tears. You will see what the majority of people generally don’t see. An essential part of every film, a part that nobody generally notices,” Zelenskyy said right before a list of 358 names of children and teens started scrolling against a black backdrop under the heading “Russia killed.”
“Names are important; they fall into obliviousness and obscurity. Because in the very moment when they appear on screen almost all spectators do only one of two things: either they get involved or they up and leave,” he said.
“But I know that the first one is the most important one. The second one must not be posssible.”
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 13,477 civilian casualties in the country since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
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