The strong words came before Penn and designer Giorgio Armani hosted a fundraising dinner at the Cannes Film Festival Friday night to support the country which suffered a catastrophic earthquake in 2010.
“It’s not only celebrities that went (to Haiti) to help only for a day,” said Penn. “It’s the whole (expletive) world. It’s the entire media. It’s all of you.”
“The reason people get Haiti fatigue is that they never commit in the first place,” he added. “People have to understand this is not about diving into the water. You’re going to have to swim.”
Penn spoke at the press conference with two other celebrity activists who run aid organizations in the country — director Paul Haggis and supermodel Petra Nemcova.
The press conference came hours before a black tie gala to support the three organizations — Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO), Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ) and Nemcova’s Happy Heart’s Fund (HHF).
The Haiti Carnival in Cannes is expected to draw A-list Hollywood celebrities in attendance at the festival. Penn said that Lyle Lovett had even agreed to play to entertain and a silent auction would further benefit the Haiti funds (sample auction item: the chance to meet Bono backstage after a U2 show and receive an autographed guitar).
It is the first time the Cannes Film Festival has hosted a press conference and major event – as part of the festival — without a specific film attached to the project.
Penn, who spends much of his time in Haiti, said that Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux called him “and he asked me what he could do to help. That’s how the conversation went.”
Penn said that the time is now to help the country.
“Everyone wants to say, don’t give them fish, teach them to fish. Well, there’s no (expletive) fish,” said Penn.
Haggis, who called Penn “a hero” for using his celebrity to help Haiti, pointed out that the people of Haiti remain hopeful despite the often dire circumstances.
“If you have given up hope,” he said. “You haven’t been to Haiti.”
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