Sony gives to Mideast cause

'Season' opens Haifa fest as message of solidarity

A correction was made to this article on Nov. 2, 2006.

Execs at Sony are doing their bit for Mideast peace. Yair Landau, president of Sony Pictures Digital and vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, was at Israel’s Haifa Film Festival on Oct. 14 to announce the donation of $50,000 each to Israel’s Jewish National Fund and the Red Cross in Lebanon.

The move comes on the back of the July war between Israel and Lebanon that saw more than 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis killed. Landau presented the coin before a screening of animated pic “Open Season,” which Sony execs decided to preem internationally at the fest.

“We felt that the region, especially kids and the environmment on both sides of the border, had been tragically affected. This was an opportunity to do something for the rebuilding. We’re glad that life is now returning to normal,” Landau told Variety. “Open Season” is also be the first Sony pic to open in Lebanon since the war, bowing after the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr on Oct. 23.

The decision to preem Sony’s animated pic at Haifa was designed as message of solidarity for a fest which took a cultural hit following the Israeli military action. In the immediate aftermath of the war, EKK, Greece’s governing film body, yanked its titles from the fest and Palme d’Or-winning helmer Ken Loach publicly refused an invitation from Haifa fest officials in protest at the ongoing conflict.

Fest wrapped Oct. 14 with “Foul Prize” by helmer Tzahi Grad, taking home the top prize. Pic, set on Holocaust memorial day, portrays a fight between two drivers on which leads to disastrous consequences.

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