Before Liev Schreiber headed to the Paris Theater on May 5 to accept an award at the Israel Film Festival, he said he did “what every good Jewish boy would do — I called my mother.”
His mom, Heather, told him to say it’s wonderful to be a Jew.
Of course Schreiber immediately responded, “But ma, is it not also wonderful to not be a Jew?”
Mom replied, “How should I know?”
“It suddenly dawned on me,” Schreiber recounted, “that my mother managed to sum up the entirety of my film career: How should I know?”
Jonathan Safran Foer couldn’t make it to the opening night ceremonies to present Liev with an IFF Achievement in Film Award. He texted from the doctor’s office that his two young children, both under five, was being treated for food poisoning.
Naomi Watts, Liev’s partner, filled in for Foer. She has known Liev for six years and is the mother of his two sons, Alexander “Sasha” Pete, 3, and Samuel Kai, 2.
“Liev cares about a lot things,” Watts said. “Israel is one of them. We had the good fortune of going there a couple of years ago. To share that experience with him was a great pleasure.”
Watts read Foer’s remarks: “Liev has been a model of menchness — a full human being. He wants things to be better than they are. As Hillel said, ‘Where there are no men, strive to be one.’ That’s Liev.”
Phil Donahue, the former talk show host, presented an IFF Lifetime Achievement Award to the legendary film director Stanley Donen, whose musicals included “Dancin’ in the Rain” (1952) and “On the Town” (1949).
Donen was born Mordecai Moses Donen 87 years ago in Columbia, South Carolina. “Jews were rarely found — you had to look for them,” Donahue said. “He had a miserable childhood. The kids used to taunt him: ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, I’d rather be a black man than a damn Jew.’”
At 16 Donen came to New York where “he discovered it didn’t matter who you are,” Donahue said. “For the first time he felt free.”
Mike Burstyn and Tovah Feldshuh served as emcees at this 25th anniversary edition of the Israel Film Festival. Meir Fenigstein, founder and executive director of the festival, presented an IFF Cinematic Achievement Award to the prolific Israeli producer/director Micha Shagrir.
“I can empathize with the victims of 9/11,” Shagrir said. “My wife was killed near a synagogue in Paris in 1980. I go back to the Middle East and pray we shoot only with movies.”