LA Italia Fest to Honor 'Green Book's' Nick Vallelonga

nick vallelonga - Getty - H 2019
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Vallelonga is being honored as Italian-American of the Year, amid resurfaced controversy involving both Vallelonga and his film 'Green Book.'

The 14th annual LA Italia Fest will conclude Friday night with a special awards ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatres in Hollywood, honoring multiple Academy Award nominees before the big night on Sunday.  

Nick Vallelonga, who is Oscar-nominated for best original screenplay and best motion picture for Green Book, will be honored with the festival’s Italian-American of the Year award. And Green Book, which is nominated for five Academy Awards, will be honored with the LA, Italia Solidarity award.

The festival will also give its best script award to Green Book's Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie and Peter Farrelly. The trio previously won the Golden Globe for best screenplay. Green Book, starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, is based on the story of Vallelonga's father Tony Lip, who drove virtuoso pianist Don Shirley on a tour through the segregated South in the early 1960s.

Green Book’s awards campaigning has not been without controversy, including Shirley’s own family condemning the film and disputing its historical accuracy. Additionally, a 2015 tweet from Vallelonga to Donald Trump resurfaced, where he claimed to see “Muslims in Jersey City cheering when towers went down,” on local news. Vallelonga has since apologized for the statement and later deleted his Twitter account.

Mortensen was also widely condemned for saying the N-word while promoting Green Book. And director Peter Farrelly was criticized for past behavior involving an on-set ruse to show people his genitalia. Both have since apologized.

Vallelonga and Currie will be in attendance at the fest to receive their awards. Actors from the film expected to attend include Mike Hatton, Dimiter Marinov, Joe Cortese, Paul Sloan, Quinn Duffy and Lou Venere. 

As previously announced, Adam McKay will be honored with the festival’s Filmmaker of the Year award. His Dick Cheney biopic Vice is nominated for eight Academy Awards in total.

Oscar-nominated Nicholas Britell will receive the LA, Italia Cult Music award for his original score for If Beale Street Could Talk. And Oscar-nominated composer Terence Blanchard will be honored with the LA, Italia People award for his original score for BlacKkKlansmanBlack Panther composer Ludwig Goransson, who is also nominated for best original score, will receive the LA, Italia Global award.

Marc Shaiman, composer and co-lyricist for Mary Poppins Returns, and co-lyricist Scott Wittman, will receive the LA, Italia Family Film Music award. Shaiman is Oscar nominated for best original score, and Shaiman and Wittman are both nominated for best original song for "The Place Where Lost Things Go." 

Syrian director Talal Derki will be honored with the LA, Italia Peace award for his Academy Award-nominated documentary Of Fathers and Sons. And Guy Nattiv, nominated for best live-action short film for Skin, will be give the LA, Italia Short Film of the Year award.

Among Italians being honored on Friday, The First King director Matteo Rovere will also receive a Filmmaker of the Year award. The U.S. premiere of The First King, a historic film about the founding of Rome, will screen following the awards ceremony.

Twin sisters Marianna and Angela Fontana will receive the Breakout Actors award. And Alessandro Preziosi and Maria Grazia Cucinotta will receive the Italian Institute of Culture’s Los Angeles Creativity award.

This year’s festivities were dedicated to Francis Ford Coppola in honor of his upcoming 80th birthday. Tributes were screened for Bernardo Bertolucci and the Taviani Brothers.

“The event honored Italian and American artists alike as part of our ongoing effort to build bridges between our two great countries,” said festival founder Pascal Vicedomini and honorary chair Mark Canton. “The caliber of this year’s guests and movies were a testament to how many people from both sides of the Atlantic share this same goal.”

LA Italia’s sister events frequently attact A-List talent to enjoy Italy’s coastal islands, with the Capri-Hollywood festival taking place each December and the Ischia Global Film & Music Festival each July.