Director Oliver stone also receives achievement award

Self-labeled ‘shiksa from London’ Helen Mirren accepts Jerusalem Film Festival honor

At Israeli premiere of ‘Golda,’ actress says she never imagined receiving an award in the ‘beautiful, historic, magical, difficult, complex and wonderful city of Jerusalem’

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Helen Mirren arrives for the screening of 'Golda' in Jerusalem's Film Festival, Thursday, July 13, 2023. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)
Helen Mirren arrives for the screening of 'Golda' in Jerusalem's Film Festival, Thursday, July 13, 2023. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Accepting an award at the opening ceremony of the Jerusalem Film Festival on Thursday evening, actress Helen Mirren said she was thrilled to be honored in the “wonderful city of Jerusalem.”

Mirren was honored by the festival with an achievement award ahead of the Israeli premiere of “Golda,” in which she plays the legendary former prime minister Golda Meir, who faced the unthinkable during the surprise Yom Kippur War in 1973.

Guy Nattiv, who directed the film, introduced Mirren on Thursday evening as a “true mensch… we are honored you played Golda, and thank you so much for who you are, thank you for coming here.”

The actress recounted her time on a kibbutz in the Golan Heights just after the 1967 Six-Day War, when there were still “a few shells going off in the grapevines.”

“When they realized that was a bit too dangerous for this shiksa from London, they yanked me out of the grapevines and they put me in the kitchen,” she recalled.

While washing the dishes in the kitchen, she said, she heard a burst of Hebrew behind her, which she didn’t understand, before it went quiet. “I turned around, and it was completely empty because everyone had gone down into the bomb shelter, leaving me right at the back of the kitchen doing all the washing up.”

Helen Mirren arrives for the screening of ‘Golda’ at the Jerusalem Film Festival, July 13, 2023. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)

“Little did I think, at that moment, that I would be standing here in this beautiful, historic, magical, difficult, complex and wonderful city of Jerusalem,” she added. “And I thank you so very, very much for this award.”

The actress said she was dedicating the award to her “tribe” — actors around the world — “in Germany, and Belgium, America, they are Palestinians, and they are Israelis, and they are Africans.”

Director Oliver Stone (“Platoon,” “Wall Street,” “Scarface”) a three-time Oscar winner, was also honored with an achievement award at the festival’s opening and lamented the heatwave currently enveloping Israel.

“Boy, was it hot today in Jerusalem,” said Stone, “It’s been 20 years since I’ve been here, and it looks like a bigger and more hungry city — more ambitious, more peaceful. God bless you.”

His latest film, the documentary “Nuclear Now,” is screening at the festival, as are a number of his older classic movies.

Director Oliver Stone receives an award at the Jerusalem Film Festival, July 13, 2023. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)

French filmmakers and brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne also received an achievement award Thursday evening. Their latest film, “Tori and Lokita,” about two young African refugees living in Belgium, is screening at the festival.

Addressing the opening ceremony ahead of the screening of “Golda,” President Isaac Herzog — who met privately with Mirren ahead of the premiere — praised the actress’s performance in the film.

“The film weaves between the personal and the public, between the threat against the State of Israel 50 years ago in the October 1973 Yom Kippur war, to the story of one of the historical leaders of the State of Israel, Golda Meir — who our guest Helen Mirren portrays wonderfully,” said Herzog.

Herzog’s remarks were bracketed and interrupted by raucous chants of “democracy,” which have marked the mass ongoing protests against the government’s judicial overhaul.

The president had been hosting negotiations between the coalition and the opposition aimed at reaching a broad consensus, but the talks fell apart last month.

Earlier in the day, at a press conference in Jerusalem, Mirren said she was “personally very moved and excited” to see the “huge demonstrations” across Israel. “I think maybe it’s a pivotal moment in Israeli history.”

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