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Citizen Penn Image

Citizen Penn

VIFF Impact | Impact

Cynical about celebrity activists? This film mounts a convincing counter argument for Sean Penn. Penn, whose father Leo was blacklisted as a Communist, has made no secret of his disgust at American imperialism, and has regularly ventured to places like Iraq, Venezuela, Cuba, and New Orleans post Katrina. But as this film chronicles, over the last decade much of his energy has gone into supporting the people of Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010, which claimed a quarter of a million lives and displaced many more.

Penn arrived with a small team of volunteers and urgent morphine supplies donated by his friend Hugo Chávez. More surprising, perhaps, is that he opted to stay on the island for months, taking over leadership of the largest refugee camp when the US military left. Culled largely from footage shot on the ground at the time, but also drawing on interviews with Penn, Anderson Cooper and others, the film is a vivid account of first person activism, the expediencies of life and death in a disaster zone, and one man’s dedication to direct action.


Includes an interview with Director: Don Hardy, Producer: Shawn Dailey

International premiere
Director Icon Director
Don Hardy

Sean Penn, Anderson Cooper, Ann Young Lee
Executive Producer Ellen Fair, Kim Forbes Tramel, Dan Braun, Josh Braun
Producer Shawn Dailey, Don Hardy
Screenwriter Don Hardy
Cinematographer Mike Abela, Captain Barry Frishman, Don Hardy, Liam Storrings, Dan Gillett, John Burns
Editor Don Hardy
Music Linda Perry
Production Company Casual Automaton
Source KTF Films
USA 2020 93 min. English, Haitian Creole, French with English subtitles Article
Media Partners


Please note that VIFF 2020 online films can be viewed in British Columbia only.

Hardy, Don headshot


Don Hardy recently completed the first season of a documentary series for Disney+ called Pick of the Litter, based on the documentary film of the same name that he produced and directed in 2018. Don’s previous films include Theory of Obscurity (2015, about the legendary music and art collective known as The Residents); The Human Experiment (2013), about untested chemicals in everyday products, which was narrated by Sean Penn; Love Hate Love (2011) and Witch Hunt (2008).

Selected Filmography
Witch Hunt (2008); The Human Experiment (2013); Theory of Obscurity (2015)

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