President of Ukraine

Culture and cinema cannot be outside politics when it is a policy of aggression - address by the President of Ukraine to the participants and guests of the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival

17 February 2023 - 00:36

Culture and cinema cannot be outside politics when it is a policy of aggression - address by the President of Ukraine to the participants and guests of the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival

Dear organizers, participants,

friend of Ukraine Sean,

and guests of the 73rd Berlin Film Festival!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

In preparing for this address, I remembered a phrase that you are all well familiar with. “Break the fourth wall.”

An imaginary border between the one who is on the screen and a viewer.

At the same time, cinema is able to overcome other walls and barriers existing in the world. Both real and ideological. 

It is enough to mention the story of the great German director Wim Wenders. In my opinion, in a certain sense of the word, he broke the Berlin Wall two years before its actual fall. In the outstanding film Der Himmel über Berlin, where the divided city is united by Angels flying freely over the wall. At that time, Wenders could not even imagine that one day, in basically the same place, he would open the 50th Berlinale. 

Where once there was a wall and emptiness – now life is booming and the heart of the Berlinale beats. 

And it seems very symbolic to me. For many years, Potsdam Square was "cut through" by the Berlin Wall. Formally, it divided West and East Berlin. It divided the free world and the totalitarian one. And it is not only about state borders on the map. 

The wall divided different worldviews, philosophies, different values. Today, Russia wants to build the same wall in Ukraine. A wall between us and Europe.  To separate Ukraine from its own choice and its own future. A wall between freedom and slavery. Between the right to life and missile attacks. Between progress  and the ruins that Russia leaves behind. A wall between civilization and tyranny.

A logical question comes up:

On which side should culture and art be? Are they still out of politics?

Russia has been waging a full-scale war against us for almost a year. For almost a year it has been shelling and destroying peaceful cities, for almost a year it has been killing people, killing women and children, threatening the world with a nuclear attack, provoking food, energy, environmental, migration and other crises on all continents. Can art be outside of politics? Should cinema be out of politics?

This is an eternal question, but today it is again extremely relevant.

I think about it when I hear strange calls for representatives of Russian sports, read about strange invitations to perform for Russian musicians, discussions about scientists, cinema, and culture in general. I was thinking about this... last night when Russia launched yet another massive missile attack on Ukraine. 36 rockets and Iranian drones!

Culture and cinema can be outside politics. But not when it is a policy of aggression. Not when it is a policy of mass crimes, murders, terror, the desire to destroy other countries and other peoples. When it is a policy of total war. That is, the politics of today's Russia.

Under such circumstances and at such times, art cannot be neutral. Cannot be "out". 

Culture makes choices in times like these. Culture chooses the side. Or speaks out in different ways fighting and standing against evil. Or – ovelooks and remains silent – and, in fact, helping the evil. 

When art is indifferent and its voice is not heard, in this silence the loud speakers of evil sound stronger and more convincingly.

Of course, in a global sense, cinema cannot change the world. But it can influence and inspire people who can change the world.

A good movie evokes emotions. Cult cinema causes change. In humanity's struggle against any evil, there are always two voices – truth and propaganda. 

For a while, propaganda can muzzle the truth. But it is not able to win completely. If art does not stop the struggle and understands that standing aside means being close to evil.

The Berlinale made its choice. And confirmed the truth of my statement. Professing the principles of openness, equality, dialogue without borders and the cinema from all over the world, the Berlinale made a choice. Institutions and persons supporting the Kremlin and films made with Russia’s support are not admitted to this year's festival. We appreciate it and are grateful for it. This is really important.

This is not a formality. This is justice. We are grateful for Ukraine's support, attention to Ukraine, solidarity with Ukraine.

Proof of this is the official badge for participants and guests of the Berlinale – the Golden Bear, which this year has become blue and yellow. These are the colors of Ukraine. The colors of our flag. We will do everything to return him to his rightful place and free all our lands. 

Your support in this is important and invaluable to us. Now there are thousands of kilometers between us. But we are side by side. 

We speak different languages, but there is complete understanding between us. Only a virtual border separates us. But there is no wall between us.

Ladies and Gentlemen! 

In 1951, the first Berlin Film Festival took place. You all know the slogan and purpose of the first Berlinale. This is the Showcase of the free world.

Today, Ukraine is the Fortress of the free world. A fortress that has stood for almost a year. A fortress that protects itself, Europe and the world. A fortress that cannot fall. A fortress that will definitely stand. And will win. 

I believe that you will all be convinced of this, after seeing our "Superpower" – the superpower of Ukraine.

Glory to Ukraine!