The buzz in Hollywood is that Israel provides among the best film and TV content, i.e. TV series Homeland and Dig. It has been established that Israel is among the most creative nations on earth today, whether it is in science, medicine, technology, cyber, arts, to name a few.
On Wednesday, October 28, 2015 the Israel Film Festival (IFF) held its 29th festival opening night at the Steve Tisch Cinema Center at the Saban Theatre, in Beverly Hills California. The Festival’s (www.israelfilmfestival.com) mission is to spotlight Israel’s thriving film and television industry, while enriching American vision of Israel’s social and culture diversity and advancing tolerance and understanding, will last till November 19, 2015 and will feature selected Israeli films and panel discussions.
Baba Joon, a story about an Iranian Jewish immigrants’ life in Israel and first Israeli film spoken mainly Farsi, was the opening night feature film and is Israel’s official entry Academy Award 2016 for Best Foreign Language Film.
This year, the Iranian American Jewish Federation (IAJF) www.iajf.org co-sponsored the IFF opening night in which Dr. Sharon Nazarian president of Nazarian Family Foundation received the 2015 IFF Humanitarian Award, Aaron Sorkin, a prolific screenwriter, producer, and playwright received the 2015 IFF Achievement in the Film and Television Award and Actress Dame Helen Mirren received the 2015 IFF Career Achievement Award.
One of the major consequences of the 1979 revolutions in Iran was the unwanted mass immigration of the Iranian elite and its minorities, among them Jews. Immediately after their arrival, the Iranian Jewish community who had settled in California – mainly in Los Angeles – began forming various organizations in order to cater to various community needs. In 1980, the Iranian American Jewish Federation (the “IAJF”) was formed as an umbrella organization with main objective of defending and protecting the interests and welfare of Jews throughout the world – with special emphasis on Iranian Jews – as well as streamlining the philanthropic activities of its member organizations.
I attended the event as the IAJF’s guest. The theatre was packed with the supportive Iranian community. Mrs Susan Azizzadeh, President of IAJF delivered short and most meaningful opening speech.
In her speech, Mrs. Azizzadeh told the audience that this year the Iranian American Jewish Federation (IAJF) is celebrating 35 years of service to the community, protecting, defending, assisting and empowering its members. She went on to explain that the IAJF represents the unity and continuity of an ancient community, its roots have been planted in the land of Queen Ester and has been nurtured by the poems of Rumi. Over millenniums the Jewish identity has been woven into Persian traditions, giving the Iranian Jews a unique flavor in the mosaic of the Jewish world as a whole.
Second to leave an indelible impression on me was Dame Helen Mirren who, for years has beguiled audiences around the world with her acting talent. Ms. Mirren’s connection to Israel started when, a few months after the Six Day War she packed her bags and with her Jewish boyfriend at that time flew to Israel and served as volunteers helping Kibbutz Ha’on, nestled on the south-east bank of the Lake of Galilee. There in the Jordan Valley Ms. Mirren added one other building block in her acting career. The impression the young Jewish Homeland left on her lives on with this talented actress until today. Ms. Mirren’s summation was: “the greatest asset that Israel has is Israelis.”
A film festival acts as a bridge between people and cultures. The burgeoning of Israel’s film industry is one other building block of Israel, a young country with ancient history that is constantly building its future while leaving indelible marks on the world of the present.