LA's Israeli Film Festival reaches Hollywood mainstream

Sacha Baron Cohen and Jeff Goldblum are 2 of the big Hollywood names set to attend the annual festival.

borat 88 298 (photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox)
borat 88 298
(photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox)
It's turning out to be an unprecedented year for Israeli film, and the stars are aligning to show their support. Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeff Goldblum, Maria Conchita Alonzo, John Savage, Eric Braden, Larry Miller and recent Oscar Winner Ari Sandal are just some of the big Hollywood names that have confirmed their attendance at the 22nd annual Israel Film Festival in LA on Tuesday, the city's Consul-General Ehud Danoch told The Jerusalem Post Satruday night. For the first time, people are buzzing about the festival as a major Hollywood event, and as a result, Israeli film may finally get its due on the world's main stage. A gala dinner hosted by the Israeli consulate will bring together top representatives of the Israeli film industry and a prestigious list of Hollywood executives and celebrities. The Beverly Hilton Hotel, the same venue that plays host to the Golden Globe Awards every year, has been selected for the main event. More than 20 Israeli actors, directors and producers will mingle with the cream of Hollywood's entertainment industry. The gala honors co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Amy Pascal, famed Israeli actress Gila Almagor, and British comedian Cohen. Pascal, who will be receiving the festival's Visionary Award, is a vocal supporter of Israel and the Jewish people in Hollywood and was named the most influential woman in Hollywood by The Hollywood Reporter. Almagor, considered by many to be the first lady of the Israeli cinema, will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Cohen, Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee for Borat, will receive the first-ever Israel Film Festival Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film. The spotlight on this year's festival is a result of two main factors: The amazing success of Israeli films on the international scene over the last year, and the strong position Israel has attained in Hollywood over the last two years. This past year will be remembered fondly for several Israeli films that received high acclaim in festivals all over the world. Last month, Israeli director Joseph Ceder won the prestigious Golden Bear in the best director category at the Berlin Film Festival for his film Beaufort and Shaul Amir's Sweet Mud took awards both in Berlin and at the Sundance International Film Festival in Utah - a first for an Israeli film. Danoch, who is hosting the event together with the founder and executive director of the festival Meir Fenigstein, said there would be "more Hollywood heavyweights attending this evening honoring Israeli cinema" than ever before. During his tenure, Danoch has made special efforts to bring major celebrities to Israel, thereby bringing rare positive headlines about the country to the news. Last year boasted visits from Sharon Stone, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, Jim Carrey, and Uma Thurman, to name but a few. Stars, producers, directors, and filmmakers also lined up to support Israel during last summer's war with Lebanon, with 84 celebrities signing a statement condemning the terrorist activities of Hizbullah and Hamas. Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Michael Douglas were just a few of those who put their name on the petition. The statement, which appeared as a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times and in the leading Hollywood trade papers, was followed by a donation by actor Adam Sandler of 400 handheld Playstations to support Israeli children in bomb shelters. The Israel Film Festival in Hollywood, which runs March 7-22, is the biggest of its kind outside Israel. The opening night screening of Aviva My Love will take place at the world-famous Grauman's Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. The high profile of this year's film festival may be to be a turning point for blue-and-white film in Hollywood. "This will be a true celebration for the Israeli film industry in the heart of Hollywood," said Danoch. "The festival will bring Israeli films to Hollywood and in the months that follow, we will see Hollywood films being produced in Israel."•