Parents' Guide to

Citizen Penn

By Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Haiti relief docu has cursing, smoking, disturbing images.

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Though the documentary can feel self-aggrandizing and an attempt to shift negative perceptions of Penn's personal style of activism, his dedication to helping Haiti is obviously not a publicity stunt. Much of Citizen Penn's narrative is about how Penn, who had done limited disaster relief work in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, was able to coordinate efforts by circumventing government politics and bureaucracy. He reached out directly to individuals and exploited some controversial connections, like the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, to get the medicines, food, supplies, and expertise needed on the ground. It also highlights how he strategically used self-publicity, with the help of journalist Anderson Cooper, to raise funds to keep their efforts going.

The documentary successfully reveals in detail the ways that Penn and his team were able to help so many people, as well as and the continued positive impact the organization’s development projects continue to have in Haiti. It also highlights how, over a decade later, CORE continues to provide both immediate global disaster relief and Stateside support. This not only helps Penn seem a little less arrogant, but also shows viewers how one imperfect person without the answers can work hard to find concrete, positive solutions to what may appear to be insurmountable problems.

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