The documentary will premiere on the subscription streaming service on May 6. “Citizen Penn” was written and directed by Don Hardy and produced by Hardy and Shawn Dailey. It boasts up close and personal footage of Penn’s work on the frontlines in the days after a 7.0 earthquake left 250,000 people dead and displaced some 5 million others. Haiti changed Penn’s life. The Oscar-winning star of “Mystic River” and “Milk” went there for what he thought was a two-week aid mission to drop off supplies, help doctors provide immediate medical care, and then get out and get back to his normal life. Instead, he stayed and created an organization called J/P HRO (now CORE) that took over management duties for the largest camp for displaced people in the entire country. It also played a key role in setting up COVID testing in the U.S. and running the nation’s largest vaccination site at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, something that the documentary makers later added to the film.
“From climate to conflict resolution, to poverty and Covid-19, citizenship increasingly requires service,” Penn said in a statement. “Service itself can be a bumpy road, but one we all have to travel. Don Hardy traveled it with CORE (JP/HRO) for over a decade, and I hope his insightful filmmaking will find some form of inspiration for those who watch it. He shows the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
“Citizen Penn” features and original score by Linda Perry, with an original song, “Eden: To Find Love,” written by Perry and Bono, and performed by Bono. It rounds out a lineup of Discovery Plus originals, including “Francesco,” “Introducing, Selma Blair” and “Rebel Hearts.”
“What Sean Penn and his team at CORE have been able to achieve is nothing short of remarkable. From a devastating earthquake in Haiti to the current situation with COVID-19 in the U.S., Don Hardy and Shawn Dailey captured the visceral urgency of their humanitarian work and stayed with the story for over decade, long after the national news crews all went home. It’s a privilege to share their incredible journey of grit, ingenuity and perseverance on discovery+ during a moment in time the world needs it most. ‘Citizen Penn’ is about rolling up your sleeves and getting the job done, no matter who you are or where you come from” says Igal Svet, vice president, documentaries, Discovery Plus.
Hardy added, “’Citizen Penn’ is a film about how you build an airplane while it’s already in the air and how you keep it flying after it has grown bigger than you ever imagined. Hopefully, CORE’s work will inspire others to step forward to help – volunteer, donate, get involved. This is not a time to stand on the sidelines.”
Originally set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival 2020, the film won the Audience Choice Award at the Heartland Film Festival and played AFI Fest, Raindance and the Vancouver International Film Festival, among others.
“Citizen Penn” was executive produced by Ellen Fair, Kim Forbes Tramel, Dan Braun and Josh Braun.