The 26th Annual Israel Film Festival opened in Los Angeles Thursday night, March 16, with a gala at Paramount Studios honoring the actor Jonah Hill, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, the creators of the Showtime series “Homeland,” and Showtime President David Nevins.
About 300 people walked down a red carpet then swirled about wine and hors d’oeuvres before taking a seat in the theatre to watch an awards ceremony M.C.’d by comedian Elon Gold (“I’m the Jewish Jerry Seinfeld”) and featuring speeches by Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat, Consul General of Israel David Siegel, Festival founder and director Meir Fenigstein, festival co-chair Arnon Milchan and, finally, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill.
Speeches over, the audience then watched the L.A. premiere of the Israeli feature film “Restoration,” a moving contemporary story about a tempestuous father-son relationship.
Here were the highlights:
1. When Seth Rogen (finally) took the stage to introduce his best bud Jonah Hill, his first words were, “Wow. That was a lot of Jews.”
2. “Homeland” Co-Creator Howard Gordon, who adapted the Emmy Award winning show from the Israeli TV series “Hatufim” on receiving his Israel Film Festival Achievement Award: “Israel may not have oil, but it has talent. There’s something very special going on there.”
3. Elon Gold on Jonah Hill’s co-star in Moneyball. “Brad Pitt is so pretty he’s actually a shiksa.”
4. Alex Gansa, who also produced the hot show “24” with Howard Gordon, thanks “Hatufim’s’ Gideon Raff and Avi Nir and added: “’Homeland’ and ‘24’ demonstrate the very very steep price of war. In that spirit we send out a prayer for peace.”
5. Another great Seth Rogen line: “I haven’t been here the whole time. Who won Best Circumcision?”
6. Israel Consul General David Siegel recounted the stats of Israeli film success: 4 Oscar nominations in 5 years; 11 American TV shows based on Israeli shows; the most acclaimed show in America, “Homeland,” adapted from an Israeli series. “This is the golden age of Israeli Jewish creativity,” said Siegel.
7. Producer Arnon Milchan went off script to call to Jonah Hill in the audience.
“Jonah,” Milchan said, “Come on stage for a moment, I want to ask you a question.”
“Ask me from here,” Hill called out from the audience. The actor had brought his friend Seth Rogen to introduce him- not Milchan. “I brought someone to introduce me,” Hill said. “You’re ruining everything!”
Milchan relented. “Jonah,” he said, “Do you want to be in a movie called ‘True Story?’”
“Yes,” Jonah said.
“Well, you’re in,” said Milchan.
8. Minister Livnat’s speech struck an oddly belligerent tone at one point. Referring to Iran’s Academy Award this year for the beautiful movie, “A Separation,” she said, “Make no mistake, the winning of the Iranians over the Israelis is something that can happen only in the movies.”
9. A better take came from Elon Gold: “Iran actually beat Israel in the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars. But don’t worry. Israel will get them back when they beat Iran in World War III.”
10.When Jonah Hill goes up to receive his Israel Film Festival Achievement in Film Award, he thanks his friend Seth Rogen, and thanks the Israel Film Festival. “I’d also like to thank Israel for creating a home base for our people,” he adds, to great applause. “And also I’d like to thank Israel for Natalie Portman. We all adore her.”
For a complete schedule of Festival films, click here.