May 06, 2021
This documentary about Sean Penn’s response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti may be self-congratulatory, but the Actor has had an undeniable impact
Citizen Penn review – Hollywood star’s vanity project lifts Haiti
Actor, director, screenwriter and now novelist Sean Penn has had some mixed notices for his non-showbiz activities and his dramatic interventions in various international situations – including his defiant declaration of faith in the late Hugo Chávez and his successor as Venezuelan president, the now-notorious Nicolás Maduro. And the naysayers and the eye-rollers may not be entirely mollified by this documentary about Sean Penn’s charity work in Haiti, which does come across in some ways as a 93-minute self-administered high-five.
It begins with a carefully curated montage of TV news footage tacitly admitting what a paparazzo-punching brat he once was – but there is no clip of his puppet appearance in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s comedy Team America: World police as an archetypal whiny liberal. Well, Sean Penn is entitled to praise. In 2010, he responded to the news about the Haiti earthquake by mobilising contacts already amassed during his experience helping out during Hurricane Katrina, and he got on to Chávez, and asked him to supply hundreds of thousands of vials of Venezuelan morphine for Haiti’s field hospitals. (Penn had been out to Venezuela to meet Chávez the year before in the sceptical company of Christopher Hitchens, who had called him an “oil-rich clown”.)
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