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Cannes guests bid up to $255,656 at Haiti auction

The Associated Press, Saturday, May 19, 2012, 5:17am (PDT)

CANNES, France (AP) -- Guests at Cannes have bid up to (EURO)200,000 ($255,656) at a Haiti fundraiser for items including a Bono-autographed guitar as the film festival's glitzy, global spotlight turned to charity.

It was the first time the French Riviera festival has attracted attention for a cause not connected with a movie.

Actor Sean Penn, director Paul Haggis and model Petra Nemcova brought their individual charities together for a black-tie dinner Friday evening to benefit their organizations and renew attention to the Caribbean country. Designer Giorgio Armani co-hosted the gala.

Penn earlier in the day tried to turn the conversation to Haiti, hosting a fundraiser for the earthquake-ravaged and poverty-stricken country.

"A film festival is not simply about films, ever," Penn said. "This isn't a film, what we're doing now. It's not a film when we stand outside and we take pictures for magazines. What it all has to do with is an expression and a shared experience."

Penn, a Cannes veteran of numerous films— including last year's Palme d'Or winner, "The Tree of Life," posed for photographers ahead of a press conference, and appeared ill at ease with the celebrity-fawning that often comes along with the festival.

He compared the importance of raising money for Haiti, which was devastated by an earthquake in 2010, to finding money for serious films.

"Do we stand by and wait for the studio to release the funds to make a great film or do we jump start that and show how those things can work and cut through it with fundraisers like we're going to do now?" asked the actor.

The night wrapped with a star-studded auction that included the chance to spend time with Lady Gaga, grab lunch with Nemcova or a take a three-day trip to Haiti with Penn.

Guests included actor-comedians Chris Rock and Ben Stiller — at Cannes to plug the latest installment of animated trilogy Madagascar — musicians Lyle Lovett and Sean "Diddy" Combs, Scottish actors Gerard Butler and Ewan McGregor, German actress Diane Kruger, and Jessica Chastain — starring in the John Hillcoat directed "Lawless," while also offering her voice to "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted."

"Why am I asking you here tonight? Why do I ask your attention at this late hour when you have other parties to go to?" asked Penn. "Because once upon a time I was ashamed of myself, more than I am today — as I think you should be."

When tickets to the Golden Globes weren't garnering a large enough bid, director Haggis tried to sweeten the deal by throwing in a date with Butler.

"Who's up for putting in some extra money just so I don't make a fool of myself up here? I'll pay you back, I promise," begged the Scottish actor, who was eventually let off the hook by a bidder who offered (EURO)100,000 for the tickets.

VIP tickets to a U2 concert and the autographed guitar from the U2 lead singer sold for (EURO)200,000.

———

AP's Nicole Evatt contributed to this report.

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