Sophia Loren honored by Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film School

Loren: “I never finished high school. I didn’t attend university. I never studied acting. Life had different plans for me. But I wish I had done all three.”

Sophia Loren during Sunday's event. (photo credit: SAM SPIEGEL FILM SCHOOL)
Sophia Loren during Sunday's event.
 Israel’s cultural world came back to life following the nearly yearlong shutdown with the Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film School’s graduation ceremony on Sunday night, which was broadcast live from Binyanei Ha’uma in Jerusalem and during which the legendary actress Sophia Loren was awarded an honorary fellowship and accepted it via a video message. 
Loren, who transcended her origins as a sexy starlet and became a great actress, spoke movingly of how she learned to trust herself and achieve artistically, urging the Sam Spiegel graduates to value their education.
“I never finished high school. I didn’t attend university. I never studied acting. Life had different plans for me. But I wish I had done all three. Education is important not only because it teaches you to think and to learn to ask the right questions, but maybe more importantly it puts you in a safe and judgment-free environment where together you can make mistakes and learn from each other’s mistakes and setbacks.”
The 86-year-old Loren, who became the first actress to win an Oscar for a performance in a language other than English in Vittorio De Sica’s Two Women, said, “Being OK with failing until you get it right, until you get it better every time you fall are what paves the way for reaching your potential in life. So every time you fall, be grateful because it will give you the opportunity to get up and stand a little bit taller.”
The actress, who recently starred as a tormented Holocaust survivor who bonds with a young migrant to Italy in the Netflix movie, The Life Ahead, directed by her son, Edoardo Ponti, grew up as a poor, illegitimate child near Naples and urged the graduates to dream big. 
“If life has taught me anything, it is to expect nothing and hope for everything. Expectations will always lead to disappointments. But to hope leads to expanding your dreams, and once you do that then everything is possible.”
She had pointed advice for the film students about how to overcome their fear of aspects of filmmaking that intimidate them.
“You should enjoy every stage of the creative process – especially the parts you dread. Those are the ones that capture the deepest insecurities in you – and maybe the deepest truth. But most importantly learn to listen to your inner voice, the voice of your inner instinct. Your instinct is your super power. Your instinct is what distinguishes you from everyone else. Learn to trust that voice. For so long I trusted the voice of others around me more than my own. That was a mistake.”
Sam Spiegel’s director, Dana Blankstein Cohen, said she had searched for someone to award a degree to this year who embodied the excellence and fearlessness of Sophia Loren and realized, “Why give it to someone like Sophia Loren? Why not give it to Sophia Loren herself? It is a great honor for the school that the legendary film actress Sophia Loren, willingly accepted the honorary fellowship of the Sam Spiegel School this year. This is a particularly moving tribute during these days of longing for cinema.”
Actress Alma Zack, who appears on the comedy show Wonderful Country, hosted the ceremony, in which mask-wearing graduates were awarded their diplomas and given prizes. Culture Minister Chili Tropper gave a welcoming message. Graduates of JSFS, including Talya Lavie, Nadav Lapid, Rama Burshtein, Ruthy Pribar and Nir Bergman, have gone on to achieve international success. Cohen voiced her hopes that this year’s graduates, who thrived during a difficult year, would follow in their footsteps and make their mark on the Israeli film industry. 
Loren concluded her acceptance speech by saying, “If I can help you in any way today, it is to trust that inner voice of yours even if at first you doubt it. Doubting doesn’t mean you are going in the wrong direction. Doubting sometimes means you are scared to go into a direction that might reflect the deepest sense of who you are.”
These were inspiring words on a night when the Israeli film industry began to come back to life.