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In Cannes, Sean Penn accuses entire world of failing Haiti

May 18, 2012
  • Sean Penn and model Petra Nemcova at a press conference in Cannes, France, on Friday before a gala fund-raiser for three charities doing relief work in Haiti.
Sean Penn and model Petra Nemcova at a press conference in Cannes, France,… (Stephanie Reix / EPA )

Dear Everybody-in-the-World: Sean Penn is very, very disappointed. You never call, you never write – heck, when it comes to rebuilding Haiti, you probably never even cared in the first place.

Penn spoke plainly Friday at the Cannes Film Festival just hours before a gala fund-raiser to benefit three charities working in the earthquake-ravaged country.

“It’s not only celebrities who went for a day,” he told a roomful of journalists at a news conference, choosing language that prevents us from conveying the full texture of his opinion.

“It’s the whole … world.  It’s all of you.”

Even you, President Obama -- though POTUS was at least labeled “formidable and elegant” as the actor declared it time that he “stand side-by-side” with just-inaugurated Haitian President Michel Martelly.

“The reason we have Haiti fatigue,” said the actor and activist, “is because there was never a commitment in the first place.”


Penn, founder of the J/P Haitian Relief Organization and arguably  the most prominent celebrity helping the country since the January 2010 quake, was joined by director Paul Haggis and model Petra Nemcova, representing Artists for Peace and Justice and the Happy Hearts Fund, respectively.

(Two of those three, incidentally, seem to be rekindling a previous romance – just weeks after one called off a longstanding engagement. But we digress.)

More than half a million Haitians remain displaced by the quake that killed at least a quarter-million people. Penn, who headed the jury at last year’s Cannes festival, has made Haiti his second home since hitting the ground there a week into the relief effort and recently was named the country’s first non-Haitian ambassador-at-large.

“People say that a great actor is by nature egocentric, and that a great director is focused on his art. Sean Penn is both a great actor and director,” festival President Gilles Jacobs said in a recent statement about the benefit.

“What he does above and beyond that for the people and the land of Haiti, giving freely of himself, his abiding presence, his work – one could almost say the work of his own hands – his whole discrete, human, moral and altruistic involvement as a benefactor, commands our greatest respect.”

Or else?


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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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