Focused on war in Ukraine, Professor Wendy Lower interviews Sean Penn

Wendy Lower with Sean Penn (right) and Evgeny Afineevsky.

Photos courtesy of Wendy Lower

Professor Wendy Lower, Director of Claremont McKenna College’s Mgrublian Center for Human Rights, recently moderated a panel with Sean Penn and Evgeny Afineevsky about their new documentary films, Superpower and Freedom on Fire, depicting the war in Ukraine.

Interviewing two-time Oscar winner Penn and Afineevsky, an Academy and Emmy Award-nominated Israeli-American film director, producer, and cinematographer, “was an opportunity that I could never have imagined decades ago when I discovered Ukraine and decided to focus my research on its history of war and genocide,” said Lower.  “Putin's war against Ukraine has had a unifying effect, certainly in Ukraine as the population fights for its life and freedom, but also around the world as observers witness a genocidal campaign that even the International Criminal Court has acknowledged with an arrest warrant against Putin.”

Wendy Lower with Sean Penn (right) and Evgeny Afineevsky.

The opportunity was made possible by Bonnie Abaunza P’18, a former board member of the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights and the mother of CMC graduate and former Mgrublian Center research fellow Larissa Abaunza ’18. Bonnie is a social impact expert, who has spent her career advocating for human rights through film.  

Lower’s conversation with Penn and Afineevsky focused on the importance of leadership in times of crisis. Penn’s seven trips to Ukraine, and his relationship with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, provided a unique view into the catastrophic events and the extraordinary strength of ordinary people impacted by the horrors of Putin’s genocidal campaign.

In commemoration of December's 75th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention, Lower emphasized that “we need to live up to our commitment to protecting human rights, and to intervening when we see genocide unfolding so blatantly. Doing so requires humanitarian leadership and unity across all sectors of society, and filmmaking is a powerful weapon for chronicling clearly and accurately events on the ground and documenting the crimes.”

Lower concluded, “We have a lot to learn from Ukraine and Ukrainians right now about the price of freedom and the sacrifices they are making.”

Watch the full interview.

David Eastburn


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