EASTON — Leading up to its main annual event, the Chesapeake Film Festival hosted a Heroes Gala on Saturday, Aug. 3, to honor Eastern Shore filmmakers and the heroes who embody the messages portrayed in their films.
CFF Board Member Julie Patterson said everyone who attended had a “fabulous evening” at the sold-out gala. It was a packed house at the Talbot Country Club, she said.
Patterson said it’s been a few years since CFF hosted this gala leading up to the festival, but they were looking forward to bringing it back.
“It had always been a big success in the past, and it really was wonderful to kick off our festival season,” she said.
CFF recognized several filmmakers and local heroes, including Holly and Paul Fine of Easton, who have won four Peabody Awards and more than 80 Emmys Awards, among other accolades.
Paul Berry of Royal Oak, one of Washington, D.C.’s most experienced and respected journalists, also received an award. As an affiliate of Talbot Mentors, the YMCA and the Chesapeake Chapter of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, Paul Berry continues to support Eastern Shore communities.
Rear Adm. Sara Joyner of Hoopers Island also was recognized as a hero during the event. CFF recognized her because she personified the spirit of the airmen represented in the film “The Cold Blue,” who flew bombing missions over Germany in 1943.
Joyner established her place in naval history as the first woman to command a Strike Fighter Squadron and as the first female commander of a carrier air wing. Since then, she has held numerous other leadership positions in the Navy, including her present position as director for manpower and personnel on the joint staff at the Pentagon.
“The Cold Blue” was executive produced by Catherine Wyler, who also was honored at the gala. The film, directed by Erik Nelson, was constructed with digitally enhanced footage captured by Catherine Wyler’s father, legendary director William Wyler, who flew missions with the airmen on the B-17 bomber, the Memphis Belle.
“The Cold Blue” succeeds “The Memphis Belle,” a feature film Catherine Wyler produced for Warner Bros. in 1990 based on her father’s wartime documentary of the same name.
Lesley and Fred Israel of Easton also were recognized along with filmmaker Aviva Kempner, whose film “The Spy Behind Home Plate” focuses on Moe Berg, a baseball player turned spy during World War II.
Kempner, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, has produced numerous award-winning films with Jewish heroes, including the Peabody Award-winning “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg,” the first Jewish baseball player in the major leagues.
The Israels were honorary chairmen of the capital campaign for Temple B’Nai Israel and recently received the temple’s first humanitarian award.
Lesley Israel, a political consultant, was a national officer of the Anti-defamation League and remains on the board of Save a Child’s Heart, an Israeli-based charity that does open-heart surgery on children from third-world countries.
On the Eastern Shore, Lesley Israel chaired the boards of Talbot Humane and the Avalon Foundation. Fred Israel, a retired lawyer, chaired the board of the temple and served on the board of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
The 2019 Chesapeake Film Festival begins on Oct. 3 and runs until Oct. 10.
The festival will feature films celebrating heroes on and behind the screen, environmental features that highlight the Chesapeake Bay and a selection of films coming directly from the Sundance Film Festival.
This year, CFF will introduce a new series in the festival lineup called “Festival Favorites,” a collection of returning films audiences have loved the most.