Positive Impact by a Positive Planet

The Croisette in Cannes must be one of the finest places in the world at the end of May, especially when the sun is shining. We arrived with the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival about to end, so there was still a bustle in the air and models and producers everywhere. There was also a very noticeable police and armed soldier presence – visible proof that we live in uncertain times.

But this did not prevent Cannes from putting on a good show. We attended Positive Planet’s Gala dinner, with which our good friend Jacques Attali is heavily involved as its president. The foundation does a brilliant job of helping people create lives for themselves with dignity, often with a loan rather than a handout. As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him to fish and he eats for life.”

Positive Planet helps vulnerable populations by designing and implementing about 40 projects per year in more than 30 countries. These projects are done in collaboration with partner organisations, public and private donors, governments and companies. It is the kind of work that prevents people from becoming migrants or refugees. Often unseen and unsung, Positive Planet is working at the very heart of the economic migrant issue and is a foundation that, like Malaika, I am very happy to support with both time and money.

There was a good smattering of stars at Cannes – supermodel Naomi Campbell was handing out awards while Harvey Weinstein, the film producer, was helping to run the auction, with the added support of singer and actress Rita Ora. Some of the evening’s most enthusiastic bidding was whipped up by the chance to visit gorillas in Rwanda and even name a baby gorilla. There was also the opportunity to have lunch with Mr Weinstein and his two Hollywood pals, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, which sold for US$240,000.

Agnès Varda, the 88-year-old filmmaker, was given a lifetime achievement award. Madame Varda is a legend of the French film industry. Heavily involved in the New Wave movement of the 1960s, she has made countless memorable films. She is also said to be one of just five people who attended the burial of Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the Doors, at the Père Lachaise cemetery on July 7, 1971.

Also present at the dinner was H.E. Hamad Al Kawari from Qatar, who is a candidate for director general of UNESCO. He was enjoying the evening tremendously, and seemed to get on particularly well with Mr Weinstein.

The evening raised many thousands of dollars for charity, but equally importantly, it showed the intense commitment that many people in the room felt for other citizens of the world. I left the evening heartened that while the news is full of horrible scenes, humanity is not absent, even in one of the world’s most glittering places.