The 79th edition of the Venice Film Festival kicked off Wednesday night with an emotional opening ceremony celebrating 90 years of the event, the world’s oldest festival that first launched in 1932.

The event at the Sala Grande at the Palazzo del Cinema including Catherine Deneuve receiving the festival’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, followed by Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivering a video message much like he did earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival.

Zelenskyy referenced cinema during his taped subtitled message, calling Russia’s invasion of his country “a horror which is not 120-minutes long, but 189 days of war going on in Ukraine.” He said Russia’s “low-brow plot in three scenes” was to nudge the world to make three dramatic mistakes including getting used to the war, forgetting the war and turning their backs on the war.

Venice Film Festival 2022 Photos

He said, “This design of theirs should never turn into reality.” Speaking directly to the audience, he said “Cultural figures, film directors, producers, actors… from one and the same family, your stance is important. Your voice matters. Your word is strong. He added that the least they could do “is to not remain silent.”

Afterward, the festival jury headed by Julianne Moore was introduced, leading into the world premiere screening of Noah Baumbach’s White Noise, which Deadline’s Pete Hammond called a “wickedly smart comedy for dark times” in his opening-night review of the film (read the review here).

Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig and Don Cheadle lead the cast of the Netflix film, which will later open the New York Film Festival, will get a monthlong run in theaters beginning November 25, will hit the streamer on December 30.

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Deneuve, after meeting the press earlier in the day, accepted her Golden Lion as a highlight of her Venice career that began with her first appearance at the festival with 1967’s Belle de Jour. She recalled several of her visits to the Lido, and mused on the lifetime honor considering she just completed shooting a movie a few weeks ago and has already started a new one.

Mike Fleming Jr. contributed to this report.

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