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May 9, 2011 3:46 pm

Israel Film Festival Celebrates Silver Anniversary (PHOTOS)

avatar by Maxine Dovere

Israel Film Festival Executive Director Meir Fenigstein, here with Actress Naomi Watts and Festival Honoree Liev Schrieber. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Twenty five year ago, Meir Fenigstein actualized a dream and began bringing the best of Israeli cinema to American audiences. As the industry prospered, so did the Israel Film Festival, now celebrating its Silver Anniversary. Fenigstein helped open a window into the life and history of Israel, seen through its films. Since the early years, when Israeli cinema was in its infancy through 2011, with Israeli films now garnering prizes throughout the cinematic world, the Israel Film Festival continues to be the premier showcase for Israeli films in the United States.

Founder and Executive Director Meir Fenigstein began his career as the iconic drummer of Kaveret, Poogy, Israel’s internationally known 70’s rock band. Affectionately known as “Poogy,” Fenigstein came to America in the early 80’s to study Jazz at the Boston College of Music. While there, he created the first New England Israeli Film Festival. Soon after, he brought the festival to New York, followed by presentations in Los Angeles and Miami.

Master of Ceremonies Mike Burstyn greeted Howard Teich at the Israeli Film Festival Gala reception at the Plaza Hotel. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

The 2011 IFF began May 5, continuing through May 19. More than 30 films, international award-winning features, documentaries and Israeli television programs will be screened at the AMC Loews at 84th Street (2310 Broadway) in Manhattan. Throughout the festival, filmmakers, actors, directors and producers will share their thoughts and experiences during a series of Q&A sessions.

Opening night festivities began with a Gala reception at the Plaza Hotel’s Edwardian Room followed by a presentation of the 2011 IFF Awards. Mike Burstyn and Tova Feldshuh led the evening during which renowned actor Liev Schreiber was honored with the 2011 IFF Outstanding Achievement In Film Award; celebrated Israeli Producer/Director Micha Shagrir received the 2011 IFF Cinematic Achievement Award, and American Director Stanley Donen was awarded the IFF Lifetime Achievement statue. Nir Bergman’s ”Intimate Grammar”, winner of the Jerusalem International Film Festival “Best Feature Film” and the Tokyo International Film Festival Sakura Grand Prix initiated the Festival presentations.

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The 25th Annual Israel Film Festival drew long lines of lovers of Israeli Film. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

At the Closing Night presentation May 19, the IFF will award the Panavision Audience Choice Award for Best Israeli Feature Film, which includes a Panavision equipment package worth over $60,000. “We are proud and honored to celebrate these remarkable men,” said Fenigstein. “They are creative thinkers whose artistry, vision, generosity and achievements are legendary…especially in Israel and the United States.”

Produced by the IsraFest Foundation, Inc., founded in1982, sponsors of the 25th Anniversary festival include the Government of Israel, Consulate General of Israel in New York, Israel Film Fund, Rabinovich Foundation-Cinema Project, as well as Bank Leumi USA, New York Post, Nu Image/Millennium Films, Cheryl and Haim Saban, Israel Bonds, El Al Airlines, and the Algemeiner Journal among others.

Tovah Feldshuh took a moment away from here duties as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Israel Film Festival Awards Ceremony. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

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