Cannes Fest Director Thierry Fremaux was right when he tweeted that Sean Penn would show in Cannes 2012. Sure enough, he’s coming, not with his fall film “Gangster Squad,” but as part of a first-of-its kind Carnival in Cannes benefit gala dinner on May 18 at the Festival Agora presented by Giorgio Armani to raise money for three Haiti organizations: Penn’s J/P HRO, Canadian filmmaker Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice, and Czech model Petra Nemcova’s Happy Heart’s Fund. Today, all three are playing a key part in rebuilding the island nation thrown into chaos by a 2010 earthquake.
Penn has been winning well-deserved plaudits for his work (here’s his latest speech), so a trip to the Riviera is icing on the cake. The Festival de Cannes is hosting the gala fund raising event, co-sponsored by Chopard. The entertainment: the Haitian show “Carnival in Cannes.” a concert of RaRa and Racine music from Haiti’s Racine RAM band.
Back in 1984 Cannes did throw a benefit screening of Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in America” to benefit the Institut Pasteur, and the 1986 screening of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s film “Elective Affinities,” to support reconstruction of the Fenice.
Penn is tight with Cannes, having served as president of the 2008 Fest jury and attended with several competition films, including his own “The Pledge” in 200 in Un Certain Regard, and last year’s “This Must Be the Place” and the Palme d’Or-winning “The Tree of Life.”