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The 73rd Berlin International Film Festival will take place from Thu, Feb 16, 2023 - Sun, Feb 26, 2023
Our team of festival ambassadors and reporters brings you the dailies from the Berlin Film Festival and European Film Market and keep an eye on past editions archives. WATCH OUR VIDEO COVERAGE TRAILERS INTERVIEWS AND AMBIANCE   PHOTOS

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Superpower (Berlinale Special) directed by Sean Penn and Aaron Kaufman

A film by Sean Penn, Aaron Kaufman USA 115 minutes 2022
Review by M.R. D’Amico
They went there first. In 2021 director Sean Penn (The Indian Runner, The Crossing Guard, The Pledge, Into the Wild, Flag day) and screenwriter, producer and director Aaron Kaufman began a film about Ukraine: they wanted to learn more about Volodymyr Zelensky, the actor and comedian who had become the actual President of Ukraine. But on February 24, 2022 (almost a year ago) while Penn and Kaufman were filming in Kyiv, still thinking that nothing could happen in Ukraine, Putin’s invasion took the whole world by surprise. They became front row witnesses of the beginning of this terrible war.
At the press conference at Berlinale Sean Penn said that just hours before Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, he had his first camera meeting with Zelensky. “It was as if he was realizing himself, that he was born for this moment”. Penn also recalled the “civility” he saw when leaving Ukraine through the Polish border right after the invasion began.
There were long queues of vehicles leaving the country: “No one was honking, no one was trying to drive around each other and there was a kind of quiet acceptance”, some of the best scenes of the documentary were those of thousands of refugees leaving but also of thousands of Ukrainians who decided not to leave their country. “There were families being torn apart and some most remain torn apart”.


Watch the photocall and press conference for "Superpower" by and with Sean Penn and Aaron Kaufman, as well as Billy Smith, Sergei Bespalov, Danny Gabai, Lauren Terp.


When directors Sean Penn and Aaron Kaufman began filming Superpower in early 2021, a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin was a looming, if seemingly distant, threat. Penn and Kaufman travelled to Ukraine to learn more about Volodymyr Zelensky, the actor and comedian who played an unlikely presidential candidate on television before becoming the actual President of Ukraine, and who at that point was known primarily to Americans for rebuffing attempts at coercion in the 2019 Trump-Ukraine scandal that resulted in the impeachment and subsequent acquittal of President Donald Trump. 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 Zelensky 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.
Thumbnail © Dirk Deckbar / Berlinale 2022

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Berlin 2019: The dailies from the Berlin Film Festival brought to you by our team of festival ambassadors. Vanessa McMahon, Alex Deleon, Laurie Gordon, Lindsay Bellinger and Bruno Chatelin...
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