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Berlinale 2023: Between Wars and Awards

The 73rd edition of the Berlinale, or Berlin International Film Festival, kicked off a few days ago, on Thursday, 16. Glamorous stars and raising new talents will be gathered in the German capital until this Sunday to celebrate the seventh art and those who thrive at it.

However, February 2023 also marks a year since the Russian-Ukrainian conflict started, and the general mood of the festival is being affected by the tragic event.



Solidarity with Ukraine and Iran. The Berlinale staunchly condemns Russias ongoing war of aggression, which violates international law, and expresses its solidarity with the people in Ukraine and all those who are campaigning against this war. The festival also stands with the courageous protesters in Iran as they defend themselves against a violent, undemocratic regime. The film selection and various events - in part with cooperation partners - will focus on Iran and Ukraine.

The 2023 edition started with this statement, officially shared on the Berlinalewebpage.  A strong statement, which becomes vital is a place like Berlin. 


A city with a dark past made of the most terrible conflict Europe and the world have ever witnessed. A town made of buildings, squares, statues, and streets to remember those who sacrificed their lives in the name of justice. 

Berlin is made to make you think, remember, and realize the terrible things humanity is capable of when hate and intolerance take over; a place created to face what has happened and what must not happen again.

Crucially, thinking about the context, this statement becomes even more valuable. Berlin knows what it means to have a war outside your home, and they do not want history to repeat itself.


Even if the festival carries on as programmed, with awards being assigned to TV series, films, and stars, the willingness to put the conflict under the spotlight seems more necessary than what we saw at similar previous events.

On Thursday, 16, German Culture Minister Claudia Roth opened the Film Festival by declaring that who makes films and shows films in dark times is resisting the absence of freedom’, as reported on WSWS. Also, it has been confirmed that this political Berlinale” aims at espousing identity politics coupled with the subordination of the festival to the war policy of the German government and NATO in its war against Russia”’.


Essentially, the Berlinale followed the anti-Russian film politics” employed by the Film Festivals in Cannes and Venice. 

Russian film delegations, companies, and journalists are, indeed, banned from the 2023 Berlin festival. And, if in Venice and Cannes President Zelensky had the chance to send direct messages to the world, asking for military support against its suppressor, Berlin is now a stage for Hollywood personalities to advocate the necessity of fighting Russia.


Noticeably, actor and director Sean Penn has been playing a leading role in this context. 

It could be argued that Penn’s career in activism is even greater than his cinematic one, and since the start of the war, he has been highly involved in the events happening on Ukrainian ground. 

In fact, this Hollywood star has often traveled to the Eastern European country since February 2022, establishing a close relationship with President Zelensky, who was gifted with one of Penn’s Academy Awards. 


The main reason behind the actors trips to Ukraine was his willingness to document the war.

That was Penns idea, and that is what the world has now at the 2023 Berlinale: a documentary called Superpower, which depicts the story of the people involved in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

In between numerous scenes of the damage to life, limb, and property inflicted on ordinary Ukrainian citizens resulting from Russias reactionary bombardment of the countrys cities and infrastructure, the film charts Penns visits to Ukraine and discussions, cigarette in hand and vodka or whiskey bottle not far away, with leading right-wing Ukrainian, Polish and US statesmen. The film lives up to Trotskys comment during World War I about hacks of all political shades” putting out as many lies as has been seen since the creation of the world’” as WSWS continues.


The Berlin International Film Festival still has to enter the most crucial and final rounds, which will take place on Sunday. However, the conflict in Ukraine is, once again, one of the main protagonists of this global event. 

In one year since the beginning of the war, much sad news has reached us, while the hope for a pacific end to this war has been fading in the background. What seemed to be just a temporary game to show who had more power has quickly degenerated into one of the worst conflicts of the modern era. 


Even if it is outstanding to see how the worlds attention and concern have shifted on the war, thanks to the extensive media coverage and public events supporting Ukraine, we still fail to realize the incredible privilege this conflict has.

A European war has the privilege of happening in a continent of well-developed and rich countries, and, as such, the whole Western world is fighting for its end. Unfortunately, we can not say the same for those wars being fought in other less crucial world areas. 

Traditionally, the Berlinale aims at highlighting the best talents in the cinematic industry, but in this 2023 edition the festival is being more effective at underlining that maybe we are only interested in the Russian-Ukrainian war because it is happening outside our homes.

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