Sean Penn’s Zelenskyy Doc Co-Director Aaron Kaufman Launches Organization to Fight Authoritarianism (EXCLUSIVE)
U.S. writer and political advocate Dane Waters and “Superpower” co-director Aaron Kaufman announced the launch of a new global nonprofit group, Humanity for Freedom, Monday in Cannes. The organization is dedicated to the fight against authoritarian governments through educational and advocacy work.
The group’s global kick-off event, 72 Hours for Freedom, will feature screenings around the world of “Superpower,” the documentary about Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, co-directed by Kaufman and Sean Penn. The event will take place in over a dozen countries on six continents, starting in London on June 6 and wrapping in Washington, D.C., June 8, including stops in Rome; Tbilisi, Georgia; Sofia, Bulgaria; Abuja, Nigeria; Tokyo; Sydney; and Buenos Aires.
More from Variety
'Firebrand' Director Karim Aïnouz on Casting Jude Law to Bring a Power Mad Henry VIII to the Screen: 'He Was Going Crazy'
'If Only I Could Hibernate' Makes History at Cannes as Mongolian Film Biz Increases Its Reach
Michelle Yeoh Dances With Brie Larson, Leo DiCaprio Takes Selfies and Salma Hayek Wears Two Couture Dresses -- Inside Kering's Cannes Bash
Set on the eve of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, “Superpower” is a courage-under-fire portrait of President Zelenskyy, a former actor who suddenly found himself in the unlikely position of leading a country at war. The film follows Penn as he travels across Ukraine in the months before the Russian attack and then lands a series of sit-down interviews with Zelenskyy once the war begins.
Produced by Vice, the film met with a standing ovation after its premiere out of competition as a Special Gala at the Berlin Film Festival.
“Humanity for Freedom and ‘Superpower’ share an intention to lift up voices of hope and raise awareness around Ukraine’s urgent fight for freedom and justice,” said Penn, in Cannes this week to promote his latest movie, “Black Flies,” which debuted in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
Kaufman added: “I am proud to be using our film to bring attention to the atrocities being endured in Ukraine. ‘Superpower’ depicts a leader that represents the best of his people: resilient, strong and fiercely independent. Ukraine will, with the world’s help, ensure that freedom prevails.”
Waters, a political strategist, elephant conservation advocate, filmmaker, media pundit, author and direct democracy advocate who will serve as the organization’s president, noted that “a few short years ago, no Ukrainian would have believed that their neighborhoods would be the backdrops to war crimes, to children being stolen from their loving parents, to death and destruction at every turning.
“The mission of Humanity for Freedom is clear — we must stop the erosion of freedom,” he continued. “Ukraine is the battlefield, physically and metaphorically, for this generational battle. Standing before us is a simple question: which side are we on? The side of peace and humanity, or violence and hatred? If we fail to pick wisely, the erosion of freedom, globally, will be impossible to halt.”
Humanity for Freedom seeks to educate people about the increasing threats to our freedom from authoritarian governments and movements across the world, with the purpose of pushing back those threats and helping secure freedom’s future.
Ongoing activities by the nonprofit group will include global multimedia communication outreach drawing attention to attacks on freedom by authoritarians, working to counter the global threat of Russia’s paramilitary Wagner group, implementing efforts to help bring Ukraine’s stolen children back from Russia and supporting advocates and leaders who are standing up to them on behalf of the rights and liberties of all.
Supporting the initiative, the chief of staff to President Zelenskyy, Andrii Yermak, said: ‘’Freedom and justice. That’s what Ukraine is fighting for. And we are glad to welcome Sean Penn and Humanity for Freedom for standing with us defending these values and making a prominent impact to spread the truth about the Russian brutal aggression worldwide.”
Penn has been a vocal supporter of the Ukrainian war effort since the Russian invasion last year. On Monday, it was announced that the Oscar-winning actor had joined “War Through the Eyes of Animals,” a nine-part anthology film directed by nine Ukrainian filmmakers that tells the story of the war through the perspectives of various animals ensnared by the conflict.
Penn will portray an American sound engineer who inadvertently becomes a witness to the outbreak of war in the anthology’s ninth and final segment, directed by acclaimed Ukrainian filmmaker Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi (“The Tribe”).
Best of Variety
Emmy Predictions: Guest Actress (Drama) -- Melanie Lynskey and Anna Torv From 'The Last of Us' Challenging 'Succession' Women
Tony Predictions: Best Musical -- Four Stand Poised to Give ‘Kimberly Akimbo’ Some Competition
This 'Fast and Furious' Arcade Cabinet Allows You to Step Behind the Wheel as Dom Toretto
Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.