He advances with small cautious steps, his meter-eighty-eight slightly bent, he stretches out his hand with a timid gesture and slips without laughing: “I know you, don’t I? I’ve seen your photo somewhere before. » Certainly, it surprises. We laugh but he doesn’t. Forest Whitaker, 61, the man who appears in the credits of a hundred films, six times in the official selection at Cannes, to whom a Palme d’honneur was awarded on Tuesday May 17, has kindness printed on his forehead.
Her voice is soft, the delivery monotonous: “I think I’m trying to figure out how to put more joy in my life. There are, yes. But a part of me needs healing. You will notice that the subject of the films I have made is always healing. And I believe that the work I do in the world with my foundation allows me to better understand the depths of human emotions. And that helps me understand mine. Healing others helps to heal oneself. »
Ten years ago, Clint Eastwood’s Charlie Parker (bird, 1988), the ghost dog by Jim Jarmush (1999), the Idi Amin Dada by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, 2006) created an NGO, the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative. However, it all started there, precisely, during the shooting in Uganda of the film on the famous dictator for which he will obtain the Oscar for best actor.
“The more it went, the more I got involved”
For the first time, in 2005, Forest Whitaker landed on the African continent. “My role as an actor was to understand what it was like to live there,” says the actor, who has always made it a point of honor to inhabit his roles. For the film, he even learns the accordion, which the despot plays. An actor offers him to go visit an orphanage in the north of the country. He meets child soldiers there. “And there, in their eyes, he says, I saw something I had seen in the eyes of gang members I had known growing up in my neighborhood in Los Angeles. And this link haunted me. So I started to help, to build a dormitory, to dig wells, my daughter created a computer center… And the more it went, the more I got involved. »
This is how he found himself face to face with Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations at the time, to plead the cause of these populations decimated by the conflicts, and that he ended up creating an NGO which works to resolve them. Not only in Africa, but also in Mexico, Los Angeles or Aubervilliers (Seine-Saint-Denis). Principle: capillarity, training the people of the place so that they swarm. If we want to resolve conflicts, we must give people the tools for dialogue. If we want to overcome the traumas, teach them to look them in the face. And if we want to give them the means to create wealth, prime the pump. Hosted in the offices of Unesco in Paris, the NGO has grown from about thirty children to more than 1.5 million people concerned by its programs.
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