The Berlinale 2023 gives the spotlight to Ukraine

Thursday marked the opening of the 73rd edition of the Berlin International Film Festival, which runs until February 26. The opening of this Berlinale 2023 highlighted the war in Ukraine with the broadcast of a video speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. On the film side, political and social subjects are enormously discussed. Back on the first days of one of the main international film festivals.


Created in 1951, the Berlinale is one of the three main film festivals with a competitive dimension in Europe, along with the Cannes Festival and the Venice Film Festival. It takes place every year in February in the German capital.


At each edition, feature films, retrospectives and documentaries are presented. The films are classified into different categories and are awarded the Golden Bear for the best film in the competition, followed by the Silver Bear. The Jury also awards its Grand Prize. The bears are awarded by a jury composed of film professionals and personalities from the cultural and artistic world.


This year, the President of the Jury for this new edition is none other than Kristen Stewart, former star of the Twilight saga. She will be the youngest person in the history of the Berlin festival to preside over it.


A new committed edition


After the opening speech of the Ukrainian President, another event marked the beginning of these ten days of film festivities. During the long-awaited parade of stars under the flashes of the photographers, two climate activists crossed the barriers to protest, sticking their hands to the glue on the red carpet. This episode marked the beginning of a committed edition, against a backdrop of various struggles.


In total, 287 films from 67 countries were screened and will be screened again by the end of the Berlinale. 16 of them are in the running for the most prestigious award of the festival: the Golden Bear.


Among them, Disco Boy. Directed by Giacomo Abbruzzese, this feature film is a fabulous account of the state of the world today and the geopolitical conflicts of the West. It is a mixture of genres and origins. This French production, directed by an Italian with a lead role played by a German actor, is a perfect example of European cinema. In this film, several important subjects are tackled: immigration, war, ecology, postcolonialism…



It mainly tells the dark story of two young men, with complicated lives, without a lucky star above their heads… And yet, the two heroes who become friends, in a chaotic political context. Between war, fear, apprehension and dreams, this film is an ode to hope and life. Dance gradually takes a place in this dark story, and illuminates it.


The soundtrack of the film was created by one of the great names of the electro scene, Vitalic.


Ukraine in the center of the screen


Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, opened the Berlinale festivities with a touching and poignant speech.


The man who became President after a career as an actor had already called on the cinema to support his country at the last Cannes Film Festival.


But that’s not all. The Ukrainian politician, who wears several hats since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, was pleased to see one of the films of the Berlinale addressed to his country and to him, namely the documentary of the American actor and director Sean Penn, called Superpower.



The documentary traces, among other things, the life of President Volodymyr Zelensky. The star makes a real declaration of love to this country of Eastern Europe, mourned by the war. Initially, Sean Penn and his co-director Aaron Kaufman wanted to portray the newly elected president of Ukraine in 2019. But the project took a completely different turn.


It includes not only moments from the life of the Ukrainian President but also interviews with activists, citizens and politicians. Sean Penn describes how this “political novice” has become, according to him, a “new Kennedy“, freeing himself from the old image that his country had, giving it a new lease on life.


For some, the atmosphere of the film is a praise to the Ukrainian president, while others see a narcissistic side, with a director present in a (too) large part of the scenes.


Other films that put Ukraine in the spotlight are on display such as W Ukrainie by Piotr Pawlus and Tomasz Wolski, We Will Not Fade Away by Alisa Kovalenko or Eastern Front by Vitaly Mansky.


Between tributes, denunciation, sharing and compassion, this 73rd edition of the Berlinale is unlike any other.



Featured photo : © Press

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