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.
by Sean Penn, Aaron Kaufman USA 2022 Ukrainian, English 115’ Colour World premiere | Documentary Form


Directors Sean Penn, Aaron Kaufman
Editing Carlos Haynes, Victoria Lesiw, Malcolm Hearn
Music Justin Melland
Producers Billy Smith, Sergei Bespalov, Danny Gabai, Lauren Terp
Executive Producers Sasha Cherniavsky, Kate Ward, Katie Peck, Andrew Freston, Jesse Angelo, Subrata De, Fernando Sulichin, Anthony Gudas, Chad A. Verdi
Associate Producers Jayne Alagano, Charles Herzfeld

Sean Penn

The actor, filmmaker and writer has won awards including two Oscars, a Golden Globe and a César for his body of work as well as a Silver Bear for Dead Man Walking in 1996. Following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, he founded the J/P HRO emergency relief organisation which is now known as CORE. His humanitarian work has won him many honours including the 2012 Peace Summit Award and, most recently in 2022, the Ukrainian Order of Merit.

Filmography (selection, as director)

1991 The Indian Runner 1995 The Crossing Guard 2001 The Pledge 2007 Into the Wild 2021 Flag Day 2023 Superpower; documentary

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2023

Aaron Kaufman

The screenwriter, director and producer began by working on commercial productions before in 2014 embarking on his first documentary project, Crusaders, which focused on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He co-founded QuickDraw Entertainment and QuickDraw Animation with the screenwriter and director Robert Rodriguez. QuickDraw went on to develop and produce Machete (2010), Machete Kills (2013) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014).


2016 Urge (Urge: Rausch ohne Limit) · Volcano; short film 2021 Crusaders: Ex Jehovah’s Witnesses Speak Out; documentary 2023 Superpower; documentary

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2023