During our Sephardic Film Festival this past week, we screened a film telling the intriguing and inspirational life story of Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel, the first Sephardic Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel. Rabbi Uziel’s motto was “Loving Truth and Peace.”
For its 11th festival, the Los Angeles Sephardic Jewish Film Festival (LASJFF) needed an honoree for its gala, which takes place Nov. 11 at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. At the same time, the Portuguese-American actress Daniela Ruah needed a community. Or at least as much of a community as a busy young actress on a hit TV show can find time to fit in.
Neil Sheff was shocked to find himself something of a celebrity at a conference of North American Jewish film festival directors a couple years ago. Of the 75 festivals in the United States and Canada, his Los Angeles Sephardic Film Festival is the only one dedicated to showcasing the Sephardic experience. "I was literally surrounded by people who wanted to pick my brain," he said, incredulous.
He played a scumbag ex-husband in "First Wives Club"; harried father in both "Clueless" and "A Night at the Roxbury"; and President Richard Nixon in this year's "Dick." And this week, Dan Hedaya was recognized for his prolific body of work at the Third Annual Los Angeles Sephardic Film Festival (alongside fellow actor Shaun Toub and film editor Kent Beyda) -- something he never anticipated while growing up in Bensonhurst.