AFI FEST 2020 REVIEW! Tom Hanks. Hugh Jackman. Keanu Reeves. Jack Black. There is a category of actors so charming and loveable both on and off-screen, you just want to give them a big ol’ hug. As evident in filmmaker Don Hardy’s documentary Citizen Penn, Sean Penn isn’t one of those actors. Hollywood’s former enfant terrible has turned into an eloquent, leathery, ultra-serious, and intense spokesperson for the Republic of Haiti.
Via first-hand footage and a candid interview with the actor, Hardy diligently traces Penn’s social work after the horrendous 7.0 earthquake that struck the country in 2010. 230,000 people were killed, and 1.5 million were left homeless. Penn’s efforts to alleviate at least a fraction of the damage are Herculean and laudable. Sure, other actors may be eminently huggable, but the chain-smoking, scowling Penn couldn’t give less of a f*ck about hugging. He gets sh*t done.
“…Hardy diligently traces Penn’s social work in the aftermath of the horrendous 7.0 earthquake…”
“A cardinal rule to fundraising,” Penn states during a Haiti relief fundraising event, crammed with celebrities, “don’t bum out the crowd.” Too late. The actor has given up on niceties and gives his counterparts the straight talk: the world is going to hell, we are all only here for mere seconds, he needs their money. It’s astounding how few of these extremely wealthy public personas are willing to part with a little cash to help those in need – to say nothing of actually getting some grunt work done.
Penn’s been to Iran, rescued folks after Katrina, rallied for equal rights, and publicly condemned the Bush administration. But it wasn’t until his divorce, when he found himself alone and glaring at the destruction of Haiti on television, that Penn discovered his true calling and departed to Port-au-Prince, with a team of volunteers and thousands of vials of morphine in tow.
"…the real citizens of this story are the Haitians...resilient, optimistic, and refuse to be labeled as victims"