“We’d originally set out to tell the whimsical tale of a real-world president who had been a comedy superstar in a series about a rural history teacher who becomes a president, only later to actually become one,” Penn says in the documentary Superpower, which is set to premiere Monday, September 18, on Paramount+.
Heading to Ukraine in 2022, Penn met with the comedic actor-turned-president Zelensky. What began as a curiosity, transformed into something much more intense amid the rising stakes. “When Billy Smith and I set out to make this film, there had been no recent signs of accelerated threat to Ukraine by Russia,” Penn clarifies in the doc he teamed up to make with friend and fellow actor Smith.
It turned out that Penn had coordinated his visit just in time for the Russian invasion to begin in Ukraine on February 24, forcing him into the bunker of the presidential palace with his documentary subject. An unlikely candidate, Zelensky’s presidential role may have seemed surprising, but Penn’s front row to this pivotal hour in his term helped build the base of this new film.
Penn made seven trips interviewing Zelensky for this key moment in Ukraine’s history, capturing crucial moments in the months leading up to the invasion, the hours leading up to the moment Vladimir Putin launched rockets into Kyiv, and the ongoing aftermath of the invasion and conflict.
Among the other highlights explored in this title are interviews with veterans from the 2014 invasion, a widow who lost her husband as Maidan, musicians in Kyiv, and even key political players in addition to Zelensky, making for a wide-ranging exposé about Ukraine’s fight for freedom against Russia.
Superpower brings viewers to the frontlines with the help of Penn’s vision, delivering some levity and inspiration at times, while also providing on-the-ground storytelling. The film sets out to show that Ukraine’s power lies in its president, its resilient masses, and its overall heart. Don’t miss it for yourself. Tune into Superpower when the film drops on Paramount+ this September.
Superpower, Documentary Premiere, Monday, September 18, Paramount+