The Los Angeles Italia Film, Fashion and Art Fest saluted Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and music producer David Foster at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on Monday as part of its weeklong celebration of Italian culture, which included screenings of 36 films, all free to the public.
Monday's festivities also featured a surprise award for Sue Kroll of Warner Bros., a documentary about Bocelli's life and a screening of "The Youngest Son," starring Christian De Sica. In accepting his award, Bocelli spoke humbly of the star he would receive the next day on Hollywood Boulevard. He said if he thought about the others, such as Enrico Caruso, who have stars, "I don't go tomorrow," but added, "If I think that this star means all the affection the American people have for me, I love it."
After the ceremony and screenings, festival VIPs adjourned to the home of board co-chairs Leslie and Jack Kavanaugh to celebrate, proving Italian heritage was not required to support L.A. Italia. The Kavanaughs said they became involved after meeting Pascal Vicedomini, the festival's founder and producer. Actress Alex Meneses of "Gigantic" said, "I play a lot of Italian roles."
According to music composer and publisher Tony Renis, the festival's president, "Hollywood is the mother — la mama — of the cinema, but Italy is not so far behind. We have great, talented producers, directors and actors, and the festival is the most important way to bring the Italian movies here, so that they can be seen and appreciated."
Partygoers also included Ron Fair, chairman of Geffen Records, sporting a Borsalino; Mark Canton, producer of "300" and chairman of the Capri Hollywood International Film Festival; board Co-Chairman Franco Nero, who said his films in the festival included one with no dialogue; actor Chris McDonald of "Happy Gilmore"; and Kavanaugh sons Matthew, an entertainment attorney, and Ryan, of Relativity Media.
Dancing on air
From high up in the hills, as the lights of Los Angeles stretched into the distance, dancers from the Luminario Ballet performed on a stage that jutted out over the landscape and seemed suspended in air. The occasion: a Feb. 21 fundraiser for the young company that includes classic ballet, modern dance and aerials in its choreographic repertoire.
"I think the timing is right," said Luminario's managing director, Judith Flex Helle. "L.A. is getting strong in the arts and a lot of people want us to succeed." Helle and board member Charles Evans Jr., producer of "The Aviator," formed the ballet company in December 2008.
"I'm angling to be accessible," she continued. "I don't want people to see us and say, ‘OK. I got my culture for the year.' I want them to think, ‘This was amazing' —that we were worth the drive and worth the ticket price."
Host Randal Kleiser, director of the movie "Grease," welcomed about 50 people to his home for the poolside dinner, with additional entertainment by tenor Carlos De Antonis and pop singer Brianna Haynes. Guests included Tom Moore, the director of "Grease" on Broadway; board member Doriana Sanchez, director and choreographer of " Cher at the Colosseum" in Las Vegas; Audre Slater, president of the L.A. Philanthropic Committee for the Arts; and Marat Daukayev, artistic director of the Kirov Academy of Washington, D.C., and a former principal dancer with the Kirov Ballet.
"In Russia, ballet is a national treasure. It's a 300-year-old institution with institutional funds," Daukayev said. "Here, things are different. L.A. is a movie city. It's an art city, not a ballet city. But we have to try."
In February, Luminario participated in the Pasadena Dance Festival, and on April 10 and 17, the company will perform at the L.A. Philharmonic's children's concerts at Walt Disney Hall.