“I’m not a temple Jew, I’m not a ritual Jew, I don’t follow the holidays, but I am a Jew from the tip of my toes to the top of what remains of my hair,” actor Richard Dreyfuss announced at the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton, where the Gala Awards Dinner, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Israel Film Festival (IFF), took place Oct. 20. “I have a pride that I am a member of a group of people who have astonished the world in such a consistent way and who have given more gifts to mankind than anyone else.”
The event brought together leaders from the American Israeli entertainment community, friends of the honorees and filmmakers being represented at the Israel Film Festival, being held at Laemmle theaters in the Los Angeles area through Nov. 4. Comedian and actor Elon Gold emceed, and IFF founder and executive director Meir Fenigstein made opening remarks.
Longtime UCLA Hillel director Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller presented Dreyfuss with the Career Achievement Award for a career spanning five decades. He is best remembered for his roles in such films as “American Graffiti,” “Jaws” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” but Seidler-Feller also acknowledged the actor’s political activism and dedication to ethical values and social justice.
Sylvester Stallone introduced Avi Lerner, blockbuster action film producer and co-chairman and CEO of Nu Image/Millennium Films, as the man who “put his money where my mouth is.” Their working relationship dates back to Lerner’s production of the “Rambo” franchise and continued with the recent release of the box office hit “The Expendables.”
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Producer Ryan Kavanaugh, producer Avi Lerner, founder/exectuive director of the Israel Film Festival Meir Fenigstein, actor Richard Dreyfuss and producer Jon Landau arrive at the Israel Film Festival 25th Anniversary Gala Awards Dinner at The Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, California.
The Israeli-born Lerner accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award in his unmistakable Israeli accent, joking, “My mother always told me, ‘If someone gives something for free, take it,’ ” although Lerner has been a longtime supporter of the festival. He concluded with a message on behalf of Israel’s captured soldier, Gilad Shalit.
Actor Topher Grace introduced the CEO of Relativity Media, Ryan Kavanaugh, who described their friendship as a bond that grew out of a conversation about the girlfriends they inadvertently shared. The sought-after producer confided how some people might mistake him for an Irishman because of his red, spiky hair, but the grandson of Holocaust survivors is a very proud Jew and supporter of Israel, with the crux of his speech dedicated to listing the numerous achievements of Israel in science and education.
“Titanic” and “Avatar” producer and Lightstorm Entertainment COO Jon Landau accepted the Visionary Award. Landau credited his Jewish identity for inspiring him toward film greatness.
“It meant more than where you went to temple but how you lived your life.”
Video reporter Orit Arfa asks the big question on the red carpet.