EXCLUSIVE: We have your first look at Superpower, the documentary directed by Sean Penn and Aaron Kaufman that has become one of the most eagerly-awaited premieres at the Berlin Film Festival.
In the clip, a handheld camera follows Penn as he weaves through underground passageways within Ukraine’s presidential palace, on his way to an extraordinary tête-à-tête with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. As the film explores, Penn had arrived in Ukraine in November 2021 in hopes of making a cinematic profile of the country’s dynamic but untested leader, little realizing he would get a first-hand view of one of the most explosive events of this century. His proposed interview with Zelenskyy kept getting pushed back week after week, but finally a date was chosen: February 24, 2022.
As it turned out, that would be the very day Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his brutal invasion of Ukraine. Instead of canceling the interview, Zelenskyy met with Penn in an unadorned subterranean room, discussing his country’s urgent need for support to repel the unprovoked Russian aggression. Penn would go on to have several more conversations with the Ukrainian president in the succeeding months, coming away deeply impressed with Zelenskyy’s leadership in a defining moment of crisis, both for Ukraine and for democratic ideals everywhere.
Superpower premieres tonight in the Berlinale Special Gala section. Fifth Season and Vice Studios are behind the film, an acquisition title at the festival. Fifth Season and CAA are handling worldwide sales.
“When directors Sean Penn and Aaron Kaufman began filming Superpower in late 2021, a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin was a looming, if seemingly distant, threat,” reads a synopsis of the film. “Penn and Kaufman traveled to Ukraine to learn more about Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the actor and comedian who played an unlikely presidential candidate on television before becoming the actual President of Ukraine – at that point known primarily to Americans for rebuffing attempts at coercion in the 2019 Trump-Ukraine scandal that resulted in the [first] impeachment and subsequent acquittal of President Donald Trump.”
The synopsis continues, “But on February 24, 2022, while Penn and Kaufman were filming in Kyiv, Putin’s invasion took the world by storm. As explosions rocked the city, they became inadvertent front-row witnesses to this historic ‘David and Goliath’ struggle. Penn conducted the first of multiple interviews with Zelenskyy on the night of the invasion, and deeply affected by what he witnessed in Kyiv and during the film team’s journey to the border, became an unofficial ambassador for Ukraine and its unlikely leader [Zelenskyy].”
Superpower is directed by Penn and Kaufman and produced by Billy Smith, Segei Bespalov, Danny Gabai, and Lauren Terp.
Watch the exclusive clip above, and check back later for Deadline’s review of the film from Berlin.
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