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Sean Penn at Berlinale 2023. “I don’t like this little tyrant who threatens him and his country”

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I don’t like this little tyrant who threatens Ukraine. What I like, however, is that there are no things that would scare Zelensky and Ukrainians, said Sean Penn on Saturday at the 73rd Berlinale Film Festival, where the world premiere of the documentary “Superpower” about the situation in Ukraine, which Penn made together with Aaron Kaufman.

“He was born for this moment,” Penn said, recalling the courage with which President Trump on February 24, 2022 Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to the world to stop Putin. The day before, the director met with the president of Ukraine, who was to be the main character of the documentary co-created by him and Aaron Kaufman. The outbreak of war caused “Superpower” to become a multiple portrait of Zelensky and a collective portrait of Ukrainian citizens. In part, it is also a portrait of an American star who comes to Ukraine for the first time in 2021, knowing little about Ukrainian-Russian relations, and as he learns more facts, he becomes involved in helping this country to such an extent that today it is sometimes referred to as its informal ambassador.

However, before Penn and Kaufman present their viewers with cruel images of war, death of people and destroyed cities, they go back to 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea. They show the events on the Maidan and the moment Zelensky came to power in 2019. They check how Ukrainian society perceives its president and how this assessment changes. At the same time, they bring closer the path that Zelensky has traveled – from a comedic actor to a leader fighting for the freedom of his country. The filmmakers also talk to politicians, members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of associations and soldiers about the situation in Ukraine. Among their interlocutors was the prime minister Mateusz Morawieckiwho was asked about the issue of transferring arms to Ukraine.

Sean Penn PAP/EPA/CLEMENS BALANCE

For Central European audiences, Penn and Kaufmann’s film will probably not provide too much new information, but that was not the purpose of its production. As the creators pointed out, “Superpower” was created for people like them, living away from this conflict on a daily basis and unfamiliar with its nuances. – We started from our experience. As Americans, we were not sufficiently educated about Ukraine. We had a very shallow view of the situation in the region, focused on issues of importance to the United States. The film was a journey in search of truths for us – Kaufman admitted during Saturday’s press conference. Penn added that “Superpower” is not an impartial film. The word propaganda has a pejorative connotation. We simply showed the truth about the absolute unity of Ukraine. If for this reason I can be considered a propagandist – then I am very happy – he said.

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Penn: there are no things that would scare Zelensky and Ukrainians

When asked what he liked and disliked about the Ukrainian president, Penn replied: “I don’t like this little tyrant who threatens him and his country.” – What I like is that there are no things that would scare Zelensky and the Ukrainians (…). I believe that Ukraine is now one of the world leaders, he stressed. The director also referred to the declaration he made before last year Oscar gala. He then said that if the organizers did not allow Zelensky to speak during the ceremony, he would melt down his Oscars. In Berlin, he admitted that he was ashamed that instead of the president’s speech, Will Smith was shown slapping Chris Rock. – Oscar is in Zelensky’s office. The president can melt it whenever he wants. It was such a small gesture of two friends – he commented.

READ MORE: Actor Sean Penn in Kiev, left an Oscar statuette to Volodymyr Zelensky

He also referred to the support that Poland showed to the citizens of Ukraine. – In Ukraine, I quickly began to combine various functions. I was a documentalist and at the same time I was doing organizational work. There were times when I went back and forth disoriented. Being in Poland, working with Poles, I had the opportunity to see how open their doors and hearts are. Poland’s response was one of the most meaningful, most supportive responses to the refugee crisis I’ve ever seen,” Penn said.

Support for Ukraine at the 73rd Berlinale

The 73rd Berlinale puts Ukraine at the center of the program. Support for her was manifested before Thursday’s opening gala of the festival, when banners with the slogans “stop the Russian invasion” were raised on the red carpet. In turn, during the celebration gathered at the Berlinale Palast joined with the president of Ukrainewho reminded that “Russia wants to build a wall between Ukraine and Europe, to separate Ukraine from its future.” – Russia is destroying our cities, killing people, murdering women and children, threatening the world with a nuclear attack, allowing a global crisis. In the face of all this, should cinema remain outside politics? (…) Certainly not. Not where there is a policy of aggression and terror, where you want to destroy other countries and people. Culture cannot remain silent, because silence helps evil. Culture cannot change the world, but it inspires and influences people who can change the world, Zelensky concluded.

READ MORE: Berlinale 2023. Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian filmmakers at the opening of the festival

The festival will last until Sunday, February 26.

Main photo source: PAP/EPA/CLEMENS BALANCE



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