- ALREADY SUBSCRIBED?
Fill in your credentials below.
The 75th Cannes Film Festival kicks off with emotional speech from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy; Forest Whitaker honored with Honorary Palme d’Or
After two years of a Covid-altered Cannes, the festival is once again resuming its May dates as it kicks off this week with a bang; Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke at the opening ceremony via video message, saying, “We continue fighting. We have no choice but to continue fighting for our freedom.” He added, “Glory to Ukraine.”
Cannes will screen the final film from Mantas Kvedaravičius, a Lithuanian filmmaker who was killed in Mariupol in early April. The film is a Ukraine-set documentary he was filming. Cannes has banned Russians who have ties to Putin’s government from attending the festival this year.
Zelenskyy, a former actor who gained prominence playing a Ukrainian president on the Ukrainian TV show Servant of the People, said in his Cannes video message, “Hundreds of people are dying today,” Zelenskyy said. “Is cinema going to stay quiet or is it going to stay out of it?”
— MFA of Ukraine 🇺🇦 (@MFA_Ukraine) May 17, 2022
War and an ongoing global pandemic have ravaged the world, but still, hope and light remain. And hope, in the form of art, like films, is out in full force at this year’s festival, with the premiere of some incredible works. Unlike last year’s festival, the 75th Cannes won’t require regular Covid testing, and things feel mostly back to normal. Last year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the festival was moved from May to July. And the year prior, in 2020, it was outright canceled due to the pandemic.
Forest Whitaker, the celebrated Black American actor and director, is receiving an Honorary Palme D’Or (the festival’s highest honor) at this year’s festival for his contributions to cinema. Whitaker’s documentary featured at this year’s Cannes, For the Sake of Peace, examines conflict and peacebuilding in South Sudan. The film highlights the filmmaker’s peacemaking and artistic efforts which reach far beyond Hollywood. Whitaker is the founder of the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI), a non-profit outreach that serves communities in South Sudan. He’s also a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and a Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation.
The Longview, Texas, native has received numerous honors throughout his 40-year career in cinema. His first film role was in 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and his star continued to rise since he first graced the silver screen. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland (2006).
Top Gun: Maverick was a festival opener, and its premiere included mega-stars like Tom Cruise gracing le tapis rouge. There were even fighter jets on the scene for the occasion. At Cannes this year, Cruise was presented with a “surprise” Palme D’Or for his cinematic contributions. And the screening of his film Top Gun: Maverick earned the iconic actor a five-minute standing ovation. Other high-wattage films that have people abuzz include Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis and Armageddon Time starring an A-list cast including Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway, and Oscar Isaac.
View this post on Instagram
Actress Virginie Efira serves as Master of Ceremony and host of the 75th Cannes. At the Palais des Festivals’ Grand Théâtre Lumière, Efira welcomed this year’s jury panel, which included Jury President Vincent Lindon, along with Asghar Farhadi, Rebecca Hall, Ladj Ly, Jeff Nichols, Deepika Padukone, Noomi Rapace, Joachim Trier and Jasmine Trinca.
A gory French zombie film called Coupez! received a 5-minute standing ovation during its Cannes premiere. Cannes is notorious for emotive audience responses like boos, walk-outs, and, better yet: 5-minute standing ovations. Other French films are premiering at the festival, like Omar Sy’s Tirailleurs, Les Amandiers (directed by Valeria Bruni Tedeshi), Un Petit Frère, Irma Vep, Tori et Lokita, and Frère et Soeur, starring the inimitable Marion Cotillard.
Suffice to say, the scene along la Croisette is lively this year, and it feels like pre-pandemic days again. With mega-stars like Whitaker, Cruise, Sy, and Cotillard all gracing the south of France, there’s the buzz of excitement in the air that feels specific to Cannes and its glamour and grandeur. The world will be watching with bated breath to see what emerges as the cream of the crop from this year’s fest.
Lead photo credit : Tom Cruise and the cast of TOP GUN: MAVERICK at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo credit: Getty