Cannes: Zelensky quotes Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator as he addresses audience at opening ceremony

‘We need a new Chaplin who will prove that, in our time, cinema is not silent,’ said Ukrainian president

Isobel Lewis
Wednesday 18 May 2022 07:21 BST
Senate GOP delegation meets Zelensky in Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelensky made a virtual appearance at the opening ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival.

The Ukrainian president appeared by video link at the opening event for the 75th annual event at the Palais des Festivals on Tuesday (17 May).

Speaking from Kyiv as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, Zelensky told the attendees that it is “necessary for cinema not to be silent”.

In his speech, which was translated live into French, Zelensky told filmmakers that they couldn’t be complacent and stand by as war raged.

He also quoted Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 film The Great Dictator, saying: “The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.”

He added that Chaplin’s film, in which the actor portrayed a fascist leader who bore a striking resemblence to Adolf Hilter, “didn’t destroy the real dictator”, but showed that “cinema was not silent”.

“On 24 February, Russia began a war of huge proportion against Ukraine with the intention of going further into Europe,” said Zelensky. “Hundreds of people die every day. They are not going to get up after the end clap.

Ukrainian president asked: ‘Will cinema stay silent?’
Ukrainian president asked: ‘Will cinema stay silent?’ (Getty Images)

“Will cinema stay silent, or will it talk about it? If there is a dictator, if there is a war for freedom, again, it all depends on our unity. Can cinema stay out of this unity?... We need a new Chaplin who will prove that, in our time, cinema is not silent.”

He also told the crowds that “the most brutal dictators of the 20th century loved cinema”.

“I’m sure that the dictator will lose… Glory to Ukraine,” he ended his speech.

Before he was a politician, Zelensky was a comedian and actor who voiced the role of Paddington when the film was released in Ukraine.

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