Haggis hosts brunch to raise funds for relief

The setting — the Santa Monica home of writer-director Paul Haggis — and the crowd of industryites gathered — including Josh Brolin, Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Wilde, Simon Baker, Rick Nicita, Paula Wagner, Lee Daniels, and dozens of others, could easily have been another of the multitude of awards season schmoozefests this week. But the somber mood on Sunday was in stark contrast to the sunshine and star power as Haggis and wife Deborah hosted a $5,000 per person brunch and informal concert to raise funds for Haggis’s “Artists for Peace and Justice” org’s efforts on behalf of the devastated nation of Haiti.

On a makeshift stage in the backyard, Haggis and actress Maria Bello spoke of their trip this week to assist in disaster relief efforts. “We got back here in time for this on a military jet thanks to the efforts of Sean Penn, who is still down there working” announced Haggis at the beginning of the fundraiser. Bello noted that the charity org had been created two years ago to deal with the crushing poverty and widespread misery of a country that has suffered decades of corruption and attendant deprivation. “Through the tragedy,” Bello noted hopefully, “all eyes are now on Haiti.”

Haggis amplified on those remarks, noting that “on a good day in Haiti, one in three children die before of the age of five. And these are now very bad days.” Haggis grimly recounted the medical nightmares that are occuring as a result of the earthquakes, including “amputations conducted on Motrin” because of the lack of medical supplies. Haggis’s relief org focuses their efforts on supporting the work of Father Rick Frechette, who he described as “someone I can trust because he came to Haiti 22 years ago.” All funds, according to Haggis, are going “100 per cent to relief efforts.”

The afternoon’s musical guests included Sheryl Crow, Moby and Jackson Browne, who opened with his classic songs “For Everyman” and also debuted a new song in progress called “Standing in the Breach,” which, appropriately for the day, dealt both poetically and specifically with combatting poverty.

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