|By the mid-’70s, George Stevens, Jr., director of the
American Film Institute (AFI), had enlisted my
mother Ina as a full-time volunteer and christened
her “Godmother of Moviegoing at the Kennedy Center.”
Her subscription-based “Film Club” benefi ting the AFI was
in full swing, with fi lm premieres attended by their stars,
parties at embassies for foreign fi lms, and valuable press
coverage the next morning. Forty-two countries participated
over the years.
As budgets were tight, stars who came to Washington in support
of AFI programs were often entertained privately at our home; I
was enlisted as chauffeur. Jimmy Stewart, Charlton Heston, Donald
Sutherland, Elizabeth Taylor, Jeanne Moreau, Catherine Deneuve,
Andy Warhol, Alain Delon, Christopher Walken, Marisa Berenson,
and many more sat at her dining table over the last three decades.
Mixed in would be a powerful assortment of fi lm buffs, including
senators, a few ambassadors, perhaps a Supreme Court justice or the
Secretary of State. Meanwhile, at the AFI’s Kennedy Center base,
small lunches were held for visiting Hollywood royalty such as Cary
Grant. The diplomacy effectively woke up members of Congress,
whose largesse the AFI was somewhat dependent upon, to the vital
mission of fi lm preservation and education.
The glamour quotient was unusually high, and so was the coverage – so much so that Jack Valenti, then head of the MPAA, Hollywood’s commercial lobbying arm in Washington, summoned Stevens’ successor, Jean Firstenberg, and asked her to tone it down. It was as if the MPAA’s presence was going to be eclipsed. In the mid-80’s, Ina created a fi lm festival for the members of the European Community after an exploratory meeting in Brussels; to this day, this showcase is the only major cultural event involving all 27 EU nations in the U.S. “They didn’t just want to be perceived as a commercial entity, so I proposed the festival,” Ina recalled. In Washington recently, the EU awarded her a citation during the festival’s anniversary. For the AFI, Ina also created a groundbreaking New Arab Cinema showcase, following a trip to seven middle-eastern countries.