Nonprofit org Positive Planet put on its Cannes Positive Cinema dinner at the Martinez Hotel this evening, for the first time including the Positive Cinema Awards. The event for the six-year-old charity celebrated film and filmmakers who go beyond entertainment in their work and have used film to educate and make a social impact on audiences. Harvey Weinstein was introduced by Helen Mirren to present Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughters with a prize in honor of their grandfather’s The Great Dictator. He then delivered a speech about how film can be socially and politically impactful. Referencing 2004 Palme d’Or winner Fahrenheit 9/11 and his and brother Bob’s subsequent split from Disney and Miramax, he said to great applause, “We lost our company over that film and I would do it again tomorrow.” Later in the evening, he also came to the rescue of a live auction that, though well-intentioned, seemed overly ambitious.
The evening was chaired by an engaging Makram Azar, Chairman of Barclays Middle East, who made a plea for the Syrian refugees living in his native Lebanon. But the evening also was somewhat typical of other events I’ve attended over 20-plus years in France. The sentiment truly was there, but the reading of the room was off. Lovely live classical music performances were somewhat lost in the mélée while the food was tasty, yet slow to arrive. Drink was limited to meal pairings, which made the guests antsy and sent many heading to the main bar to quench their desires. It seems out of place to talk about a lack of victuals and libations against the backdrop of a charity that works to eradicate poverty, but one would think the more satisfied the audience, the more open the wallet.
The auction, which included exotic vacations and an original Warhol, came with opening bids that put the lots off-limits to most in the room, some who were distracted — and even rudely ignoring the proceedings onstage. When French veteran actress Emmanuelle Béart appeared to bestow a prize, she all but gave up. Weinstein at one point grabbed attention by telling a bunch of chattering waiters, “I’m going to throw you all out. Quiet — is that OK with you?” That got the room’s attention and provided a needed moment of levity.
He was valiant. When a package of tickets to TWC after-parties at the Golden Globes, SAGs, BAFTAs and Oscars — which started at €100K ($113K) — went back to the house, and other lots came up short, he ascended the stage. His surprise offering was a one-hour pitch session with himself and Robert De Niro for $6K, and he’d even throw in lunch. “I can greenlight any movie I want at anytime,” he said enticingly, and ultimately got two people to jointly bid $170K. The after-party tickets then sold as well, for way more than originally offered.
Weinstein has helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars for such charities as amfAR, whose annual Cannes benefit is tomorrow night at the Hotel du Cap, and the Robin Hood Foundation in New York. Positive Planet helps people around the world create the conditions for a better life for future generations. Weinstein is a proponent of the group, he told me, notbaly because of its work with refugees. That’s a subject close to his heart, especially given his wife Georgina Chapman’s involvement with the UNHCR. Weinstein told me Positive Planet could be a new Robin Hood.
Ultimately, with the Warhol going for a little over $1M, Positive Planet made more tonight than Amfar did in its first outing. That said, the org could surely take a lesson or two from that AIDS charity’s benefit which last year raised $33.4M. It takes time, and clearly helps to have Weinstein in the room.