Sean Penn is a name synonymous with many things, but activism isn’t the first one that immdiatedly comes to mind. When Citizen Penn begins, we witness a passionate man speaking at a celebrity fundraiser. The same man we’ve seen speak up for the LGBTQ community while accepting his Best Actor Oscar ™ for MILK. The same man who was married to Madonna and for decades had a very challenging history with press and paparazzi. However, in this Don Hardy directed doc, touting an original score from Linda Perry, we are introduced to a Sean Penn who assisted in obtaining N95 masks and donated funds toward a vaccine for Covid during the first year, resulting in the administering one million vaccinations, five million free Covid tests and mobilized more than 185,000 volunteers.
So, why are we so suspicious when celebrities lend their name and reputation to a good cause? Because many of them only show up for a photo opp and dip out never to be seen or heard from again. Not Penn. After a 7.0 earthquake ravaged and killed nearly 230,000 people with a reported 300,000 injured in Haiti – leaving more than 1.5 million homeless, this was one celebrity who put his money and energy where his mouth is. Through the creation of J/P, a Haitian relief organization, medicine and other supplies were distributed those in need. Sometimes the best thing you can do with power that comes with being a Hollywood superstar is to flip that magnifying glass off you as an imputus to help others.
Of course, there are two sides to every story. Folks native to Haiti felt some kind of way about individuals (especially celebrities) coming in and dictating how the assistance needed comes in and what form. Even high profile journalists like Anderson Cooper had opinions, but at the end of the day everyone’s judegement shifted when they realized theat there was a true and honest commitment to the cause in these disaster laden instances. With candid interviews and personal accounts, audiences learn that little by little when humanity comes together for the greater good wonderful things really do happen. Citizen Penn is available for streaming right now in Discovery +.