Sean Penn Lashes Out at ‘Creepy Little Bully’ Putin After Berlin Premiere of Volodymyr Zelenskyy Documentary ‘Superpower’

Sean Penn said he was happy to be a “propagandist” for the Ukrainian war effort and called Russian president Vladimir Putin a “creepy little bully” Saturday in Berlin, after the world premiere of his gonzo documentary “Superpower,” a gripping, courage-under-fire portrait of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“This is not an unbiased film because this is not an ambiguous war,” he said, calling the conflict “extremely personal.” “I’m very happy to be considered a propagandist. I was happy to make an unbiased film because that is the true story we found.”

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Donning a black jacket and hoodie and sporting a camouflage trucker cap, Penn repeatedly called on the Biden administration to send precision, long-range missiles to Kyiv to support the Ukrainian war effort.

Praising the courage of Zelenskyy, Penn lashed out at his Russian counterpart when asked if the filmmakers wanted to hear from Putin, who he described as a “war criminal.”

“It was quite clear to us that we were not going to allow our film to be a podium for transparent deception,” he said. “I think we would have been better served talking to a wall.”

“Superpower,” which Penn co-directed with Aaron Kaufman and is produced by Vice, met with a standing ovation Friday night in Berlin, after its premiere out of competition as a Berlinale Special Gala.

Clocking in at just under two hours, the film follows the Hollywood star as he travels across Ukraine in the months before the Russian invasion and then lands a series of sit-down interviews with Zelenskyy once the war begins. During their conversations, the war-time president reveals his frustrations at the lack of support in the form of high-impact weapons received from the Biden administration.

In a post-screening Q&A, Penn echoed Zelenskyy’s concerns. “It’s not so much about what if Ukraine loses, because they won’t, but … if Russia wins, we are all fucked. Just dead-set fucked,” Penn told the crowd. “As Americans, I can say we’re going to have to take on board a level of shame for not having scaled up sooner with the weapons.”

“Superpower” has been one of the buzziest titles to launch this week in Berlin, with Friday’s premiere coming a day after Penn made a surprise appearance at the opening ceremony, where Zelenskyy appeared via satellite to greet festivalgoers and encourage them “not to remain silent” as Ukrainians continue to fight for freedom.

“A logical question comes up: On which side should culture and art be?” asked Zelenskyy. “Can art be outside of politics? Should cinema be outside of politics? It’s an eternal question but today it is extremely [pertinent].”

Though not conceived as a war story, but intended to chart Zelenskyy’s path from an actor playing Ukraine’s president in the satirical TV series “Servant of the People” to the country’s real-life leader, “Superpower” quickly evolved from what Penn described as “a project of whimsy” to a gripping profile in courage after the Russian invasion.

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