Huffpost WorldPost
Katherine Keating Headshot

ONE ON ONE: Paul Haggis On Artists For Peace And Justice

Posted: Updated:

Paul Haggis is not only an Oscar-winning film director and screenwriter, he's also a man of deep conviction who has worked to improve the lives of some of the world's poorest people by raising millions of dollars for Haiti.

Paul wrote the screenplay for the film "Million Dollar Baby," which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2004, and he wrote and directed "Crash," which won Best Picture in 2005. A supporter of marriage equality, Paul also famously left the Church of Scientology in 2009 after disagreeing with its support of Proposition 8, a California state amendment that asserted marriage should only be sanctioned "between a man and a woman."

In this ONE ON ONE interview, Paul states his belief that fame must be used to bring attention to worthy causes.

"I just figure if you have a modicum of celebrity you need to use it, and you need to use it for more things than just promoting yourself or your film, or your image, or your product," he says.

Paul first went to Haiti in 2008, long before the devastating earthquake of 2010. A true storyteller, Paul had gone to the country to try and find a man he had heard about who had been working in Haiti's slums for over 20 years.

"It sounded like myth more than fact, what he'd been able to do, and so I frankly didn't believe it," says Paul.

After finding the man and observing his work, Paul saw he was able "to do so much with so little." The experience compelled him to start Artists for Peace and Justice, a charity organization that supports communities in Haiti through programs in education.

"We decided that we weren't going to solve Haiti's problems, the Haitians were," he says.

Paul decided that the best way to empower the Haitian people was through education. After learning that Haiti had never had a high school for kids of the slums, Artists for Peace and Justice founded, just a few months after the quake in a temporary structure, the first middle and high school. The school now has grades 7 to 10, and will soon have grades 11 to 13.

"Good intentions mean nothing at all," he says of his charity work. "It's actions. It's only actions."