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Sean Penn Currently Filming Documentary in Ukraine as Russia Invades

Penn has been working on the documentary with Vice Studios since November 2021.

Cast member Sean Penn arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Flag Day" at the Directors Guild of America Theater on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Sean Penn

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Updated, February 26: Sean Penn has given a statement on the state of the invasion in Ukraine, and in the wake of being on the ground currently in production on a documentary about the conflict.

“Already a brutal mistake of lives taken and hearts broken, and If he doesn’t relent, I believe Mr. Putin will have made a most horrible mistake for all of humankind. President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people have risen as historic symbols of courage and principle. Ukraine is the tip of the spear for the democratic embrace of dreams. If we allow it to fight alone, our soul as America is lost,” he said, in a statement shared with press.

Earlier, February 24: In the midst of Russia’s large scale invasion of Ukraine, United States citizens have been advised by the State Department to leave Ukraine as quickly as possible. But one American is staying put: Sean Penn. The Oscar-winning actor is currently filming a documentary about the nation’s struggle to maintain its independence, having met with top government officials this week in addition to collecting on-the-ground footage.

Penn has been seen attending government press briefings since the invasion began, in addition to speaking with local journalists, military officials, and deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk. Penn arrived in Ukraine this week, but he has been preparing this documentary since November 2021, when Russia began sending troops towards the Ukrainian border, prompting speculation about a potential invasion. The documentary, which hails from Vice, has the support of the Ukrainian government.

“The director specially came to Kyiv to record all the events that are currently happening in Ukraine and to tell the world the truth about Russia’s invasion of our country,” the Ukrainian government said in a statement. “Sean Penn is among those who support Ukraine in Ukraine today. Our country is grateful to him for such a show of courage and honesty”

The statement, provided to Newsweek through the Ukrainian Embassy, added that “Sean Penn is demonstrating bravery that many others have been lacking, in particular some Western politicians. The more people like that—true friends of Ukraine, who support the fight for freedom—the quicker we can stop this heinous invasion by Russia.”

Penn is no stranger to dangerous journalism, having previously interviewed drug kingpin El Chapo for Rolling Stone in 2016. He also traveled to Iran in 2005 to cover the War on Terror, which he strongly opposed, for the San Francisco Chronicle. He has been an outspoken advocate for human rights around the globe, and also founded the organization known as Community Organized Relief Effort, or CORE, to help hurricane and earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. His globetrotting humanitarian efforts were chronicled in the 2020 documentary “Citizen Penn.”

Penn’s upcoming documentary on Ukraine is being produced by Vice Studios, in association with Endeavor Content. There is currently no release date.

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