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Helen Mirren and Aaron Sorkin helped kick off the 29th Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles.
Both Academy Award winners were the special honorees this year at the IFF Opening Night Gala held Wednesday night at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills.
Mirren, who will next be seen in Hollywood screenwriter biopic Trumbo as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, was honored with the 2015 IFF Career Achievement Award, presented to her by Trumbo co-star Diane Lane.
“These moments are kind of very sweet but kind of sad, because you think ‘hmm, it’s not actually the end’, I hope there’s more career for me”, said Mirren in her acceptance speech, then recounting her long standing relationship with Israel which began with her first trip to the holy land in the late 1960’s with a Jewish boyfriend she had then, volunteering in kibbutz Ha’On and hitchhiking her way to the city of Eilat, where she wound up sleeping on the beach.
“Since then I’ve been back a couple of times, I’ve been very grateful. I was in the remake of the great Israeli film The Debt and I’m so impressed by the incredible Israeli film industry and very excited to see the films that are showing here. I love Israel; I think it’s a great country. I think that through all the difficulties and all the pain that Israel has suffered in the past and will in the future, the great thing that Israel has is Israelis and they will guide it through”.
Earlier this year, the actress starred in The Weinstein Company’s Woman in Gold as Maria Altmann, the Austrian-American Jewish woman who successfully reclaimed artist Gustav Klimt’s art owned by her family and confiscated during the Nazi occupation of Austria in WWII. The role has evidently struck a chord with Israeli and Jewish American communities alike, as back in June Mirren also received a Recognition Award by the World Jewish Congress.
For his part of the evening, Aaron Sorkin was honored with the 2015 IFF Achievement in Film & Television Award. “I’ll keep this very brief, though if you’re familiar with my work you know that frankly is a challenge for me”, said the Steve Jobs and The Social Network screenwriter.
Sorkin added: “For most people it’s an honor just being nominated, in my family it’s an honor just to be overlooked, so you can imagine how I feel about getting recognition like this from a group of people like this… My friends who are screenwriters tell me that successfully pitching a movie that takes place in the Middle East is somewhere between very difficult and impossible. The reaction from the studios usually is ‘that’s a good story but who right now wants to see a movie set in that part of the world?’ – I do. I want to see a lot of them”.
Wednesday’s event capped off with the U.S. premiere of director Yuval Delshad’s Baba Joon, Israel’s official Oscar submission for the Best Foreign-Language Film category this year. Other notable films set to be screened during the festival include Academy Award nominated live-action short Aya and Israeli TV powerhouse Keshet Broadcasting’s docu-drama Sabena Hijacking – My Version.
The Israel Film Festival will run through Nov. 19.
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