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Over 500 guests, including dozens of actors and filmmakers, came together Wednesday night in the grand ballroom of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for a gala awards dinner to celebrate the 30th Annual Israeli Film Festival.
The fest’s founder and director, Meir Fenigstein, was repeatedly brought to tears as he recalled his three decades of experience leading the festival and all that it had done to promote Israeli cinema and talent.
“Thirty years ago I could not have imagined how far this event would come,” he said. “This festival has now brought over one thousand Israeli films and hundreds of filmmakers to reach over 1 million people here in the United States.”
Israel-born Natalie Portman was given the 2016 Israel Film Festival Achievement in Film Award and was introduced by her close friend and Thor co-star, Kat Dennings, who shared a story about the time they first met.
“I first met Natalie almost 10 years ago on the set of a music video where she played a mystical princess and I was wearing a leopard print loincloth and painted dark blue from head to toe,” said Dennings, “and she was so nice to me, or somehow not terrified of who I was or what I was.”
A somber Portman, following Donald Trump’s presidential election win the night before, dedicated most of her speech to the topic and told the crowd, “Let us look into each other’s hearts, express our own and use our curiosity against future simplification and fanaticism.”
Her debut directing effort, A Tale of Love and Darkness, which she also wrote and stars in, will have its American premiere at the festival, which runs through Nov. 23.
Famed Hollywood attorney Marty Singer then introduced Sharon Stone, who was the recipient of the 2016 Israel Film Festival Career Achievement Award. Singer said of his longtime client, “I’ve represented Sharon Stone for over 20 years, and in that time I’ve learned that her most basic instinct is goodness. Why she remains a Hollywood icon is through her philanthropic efforts and activism for peace that continually amaze me.”
Stone, who looked glamorous in a slim black dress, spoke candidly about the fluctuations of her own career. “My film career has always been so up and down because I came here with a very blue-collar attitude,” said the actress. “I didn’t just pick and choose all of the plum roles, because I thought what I should do is work. So, I picked working. I believed that my job was to work. I didn’t always pick the best parts, I picked parts. I picked learning. I picked growing, because my dad worked in a factory and where I grew up we worked. We pushed up our sleeves and we went to work.”
Guests also were treated to a performance from famed Israeli violinist Miri Ben-Ari, who played her song “Symphony of Brotherhood,” which is a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Festival screenings will take place at the Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills, as well as the Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino.
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