Most recently, at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, the actor, who has been named Ambassador at Large
for Haiti for President Michel Martelly, the first non-Haitian to receive this distinction, and has also received the 2012 Peace Summit Award
, organized a fundraising auction to support Haiti’s on-going reconstruction efforts.
The day before the Cannes auction, Penn made a bold and profanity-laden speech prior, in an attempt to encourage celebrities to demonstrate their generosity to Haiti and to open their wallets and hearts to support the country’s recovery. Among other things, the actor called politics "a f---ing smoke screen,"
urged his audience to “F**k ‘em if people say you’re just writing a cheque, but you’re making a change,”
and that, in fact, in order to bring about change in Haiti one has to ““[F]ight the f**k out of politics.’”
The actor also blamed the media, celebrities and people in general
for abandoning Haiti, soon after the news about the earthquake no longer seemed of interest. Penn, who confessed his speech was made under the influence of vodka, managed to stun a VIP audience, which included Ewan McGregor, Gerard Butler, Diane Kruger and Jessica Chastain
. Moreover, the actor urged President Obama to increase the U.S. support
in helping to rebuild Haiti. On a slightly more positive note, Penn emphasized that the Haitians were full of ‘hope” and that schools were being built.
Nevertheless, the actor’s unusual strategy seems to have worked, as the auction managed to raise over $2 million.
Among the items auctioned was the chance to join Penn on a three-day trip to Haiti, which went for over $128,000 each, as well as a Bono-owned guitar and a lunch with a Victoria Secret’ Angel.
The auction’s proceeds will be used to support Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization, director Paul Haggis' Artists for Peace and Justice and supermodel Petra Nemcova's Happy Heart's Fund.
Penn's Cannes auction comes in a long series of activities the actor has organized in an effort to rebuild Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Since 2010, Penn led a band of volunteers, became the unofficial mayor of a homeless camp, and a member of what passes for Haiti's establishment
– which is part of the president's circle that addresses investors at aid conferences. Moreover, he has become an ally of President Martelly, who recently congratulated for receiving the 2012 Summit Award and for being a constant friend of the Haitian people
, assisting them through their most dire times of need.