Oscar-winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan) embraces renowned Israeli author Amos Oz like “family,” she said. Not like a daughter embraces a father, but more maternal, because the 33-year-old actress is portraying the 76-year-old author’s mother in the film A Tale of Love and Darkness, based on Oz’s memoir.
Portman is premiering the film at the Cannes Film Festival, proud that she not only stars in the tale that explores the birth of the nation of Israel through the eyes of a young boy (Oz), but also that she wrote the screenplay based on Oz’s international bestseller and makes her directorial debut with A Tale of Love and Darkness.
This week she was on the red carpet in Cannes in a stunning scarlet Dior gown passionately promoting the movie, but last week Portman was equally passionate in Beverly Hills where she honored the writer who inspired her.
The Israeli-born Portman presented a special award to Amos Oz at the five-year anniversary celebration of the UCLA Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. The presentation was especially meaningful because Oz expressed his appreciation to Portman for bringing his story to life on the big screen and becoming “part of my family.”
At the gala event Amos Oz received the “UCLA Israel Studies Award,” along with philanthropists Younes and Soraya Nazarian, who accepted the inaugural “Visionary Award.” Hundreds gathered at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills to support The Y&S Nazarian Center which promotes the study and understanding of Israel as a modern Jewish and democratic state. And the Center welcomes students of all religions and backgrounds. Through teaching, scholarship and community programs, the Center fosters a deep and nuanced understanding of Israel’s history and multi-ethnic society, vibrant culture and role in the Middle East and the world. Sharon Nazarian, Chair, UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center Community Advisory Board, noted that the Center is quickly becoming an international leader in the burgeoning field of Israel Studies.
The evening’s program included a special conversation with Oz by celebrated Israeli journalist, writer and television commentator Ari Shavit. They talked about peace and understanding, and Israel being a dream fulfilled, “but like every dream fulfilled it is not perfect, or it would still just be a dream.” The event’s honorary committee was helmed by Janet Napolitano, President, University of California and Gene Block, Chancellor, UCLA. An elegant dinner followed in the courtyard of The Wallis.
The “UCLA Israel Studies Award,” which includes a $10,000 prize, was created to recognize individuals of extraordinary character and merit in their chosen fields – whether academia, public service, business or the arts – who have contributed to a greater understanding of Israel. Younes and Soraya Nazarian are universally recognized for their remarkable professional accomplishments and outstanding humanitarian endeavors. Together, their philanthropic work, conducted through the Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation, has benefitted a host or worthy causes in the fields of academia, public policy and community-based social and artistic programs.
Portman reported her admiration for the impressive educational center. #