Runaway Spoon

Greengrass: A Filmmaker With Truth-Telling Talent

November 3, 2014

Paul Greengrass honoring families of 9/11 (Photo by: Michael Bennett Kress Photography) Paul Greengrass honoring families of 9/11

Nice guys finish last?

That adage fell by the wayside Thursday night as movie great Paul Greengrass, who directed the thrilling ship-hijacking film Captain Phillips, and the realCaptain Phillips Richard Phillipswere together at America Abroad Media’s awards dinner.

On stage instead of on the bridge, the real-life Captain Phillips praised Greengrass: “You care about people and you are a brilliant director who manages to convey so authentically and realistically, the raw, human emotions that we feel during our difficult experiences.”

Honoree Reema Khan (Photo by: Michael Bennett Kress Photography) Honoree Reema Khan

A video tribute to Greengrass came from Barkhad Abdi, now filming in Africa.  Abdi and the Captain Phillips movie received Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor.  In the film, Phillips was played by actor Tom Hanks. Abdi was the lead Somali pirate.

Gordon Felt, whose brother Edward was a passenger on the doomed United Flight 93, said of Greengrass, who wrote and co-produced the film United 93:  “You have an extraordinary ability to being to life, to the lens and cameras, events that have deeply impacted so many.” 

United 93 is the story told in real time of passengers and crew rallying against hijackers on September 11, 2001.  The plane, headed toward Washington, crashed in Pennsylvania.  Felt is president of the Families of Flight 93, some of whom attended the AAM dinner and were introduced onstage.

(left) Capt Richard Phillips & wife; Paul Greengrass, Joanna Kaye, Mr. & Mrs. Aaron Lobel, Reema Khan & husband Tariq Shahab (Photo by: Michael Bennett Kress Photography) (left) Capt Richard Phillips & wife; Paul Greengrass, Joanna Kaye, Mr. & Mrs. Aaron Lobel, Reema Khan & husband Tariq Shahab

Greengrass called making the two films “the greatest privilege of my life. . . . In the end, it’s the relationships with these men and women that are humbling for me as a filmmaker and if the films tell the story that they recognize, then on behalf of all the men and women who have worked on those films, I thank them for their grace and their sacrifice.”

Upwards of 395 international dignitaries, ambassadors, journalists and other invited guests attended AAM’s 2nd Annual Awards dinner at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in D.C.

AAM, headed by Founder and President Aaron Lobel,  promotes the free exchange of ideas through the development and dissemination of seminal TV and radio programming from South Asia to the Middle East and Africa.

Three others honored were Saudi journalist and TV host Turki Aldakhil, who contributed to the establishment of Al Arabiya News and was named as one of Arabian Business’ 100 Most Powerful Arabs of 2014; leading documentary film organization Impact Partners; and Pakistani actress Reema Khan, who now resides in Virginia.

Dan Cogan, Greengrass, Geralyn Dreyfous of Impact Partners, Khan, Aldakhil & Aaron Lobel. (Photo by: Michael Bennett Kress Photography) Dan Cogan, Greengrass, Geralyn Dreyfous of Impact Partners, Khan, Aldakhil & Aaron Lobel.

Impact Partners, led by Executive Director Dan Cogan, is committed to financing independent documentary cinema that addresses pressing social issues.  It brings together financiers and filmmakers so that, together, they can create powerful films that entertain audiences, enrich lives and ignite social change.

Reema Khan received AAM’s 2014 Partner Award for her role in AAM’s series, Reema Khan’s America. The series follows Reema as she sets out to discover her new country through the eyes of the average Pakistani, testing her preconceptions about life in the United States and exploring what it means to be an American.

The evening concluded with a splendid performance by the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize nominated Civilizations Choir of Antakya, Turkey.  The choir is composed of Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish members who are priests, imams, nuns, teachers, students and seniors

The event was co-chaired by Gen. Michael Hayden and The Hon. Doug Wilson.

Turkish Airlines was a premier event sponsor.

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Presidential Socks -- But Not Clinton's Cat

October 23, 2014

Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai (left) & Neil Bush (Photo by: Points of Light) Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai (left) & Neil Bush

$3,000 for a 90-year-old man's dirty red socks??  Well, it was for a good cause.  Former President George H.W. Bush wore the socks when he skydived from a plane on his 90th birthday this year.  And the $3,000 goes to Points of Light, the international good works organization that held its annual dinner and auction Wednesday night at the Chinese Embassy. The generous buyer’s name was not made public, but his friends and associates will find out when they likely wind up on a a vanity wall.

The “41” socks came in a frame with a plaque noting the skydiving episode. Now that’s a quality piece of Presidential memorabilia from the man whose inaugural address "points of light" phrase inspired creation of Points of Light.

The Dinner Dragon (Photo by: Points of Light) The Dinner Dragon

Chinese Ambassador H.E. Cui Tiankai of the People’s Republic of China and Mr. and Mrs. Neil M. Bush (“41’s son) co-hosted the event that drew nearly 300 to the magnificent embassy. Dinner was announced by a beautiful Chinese dragon who sashayed through the crowd to the heavy beat of drums.

Emcee Greta Van Susteren, Fox News channel host of “On The Record,” a fan of “41,” said she had one complaint:  “He is the world’s worst interview because he refuses to talk about himself.”  She said he gives all the credit to others.  Bush’s mother told him not to brag, so he just doesn’t, she said.  Health issues prevented the former president from attending the event.

The red and blue (Photo by: Points of Light) The red and blue "41" socks

Some of the attendees included Mack McLarty, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton; NBA basketball great Dikembe Mutombo, who played at Georgetown; Retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft; Yue-Sai Kan, a Chinese American Emmy-winning television host and producer who People magazine called “the most famous woman in China, and Ming Tsai, celebrity chef, author and host of PBS TV’s “Simply Ming.”  Kan and Scowcroft were honorary co-hosts.

Music prodigy Justin Yu, an 8-year-old cellist, performed onstage.

“Volunteerism is universal and it is deeply rooted in the Chinese culture,’ said Ambassador Cui. “Points of Light has inspired the Chinese people to find more and better ways to help others. HandsOn China, one rapidly growing part of Points of Light, is now actively involved with volunteer services in China.

“I am confident that it will play an even more active role in years to come.”

Proceeds from the dinner will go to the nonpartisan, global volunteer organization’s activities to promote volunteerism.

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Points of Light To Hold Awards Dinner at Chinese Embassy

October 8, 2014

The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Washington, D.C., will be the stunning venue for this year’s Tribute Awards for Points of Light, the global volunteer organization inspired by the words of President George H.W. Bush.

The event will be held Wednesday evening, October 22.

Ambassador H.E. Cui Tiankai of the People’s Republic of China and Mr. and Mrs. Neil M. Bush head up the event called "Changing Lives Through Service."

The “Oprah of China,” TV host Yue-Sai Kan, Chinese American Emmy-winning television host, is an honorary co-chair, along with retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, a key U.S. security advisor to a succession of presidents.

Points of Light was established in 1990 after President Bush’s inaugural address invoked the vision of a “thousand points of light” and a call to action for all to commit to service in their own communities. Neil Bush is a son of the former president.

Cello Prodigy Jun Justin Yu (Photo by: Points of Light) Cello Prodigy Jun Justin Yu

Specials guests include Fox News Channel host for “On The Record,” Greta Van Susteren; Mary Kate Cary, who is executive producer of “41ON41,” a documentary film about George H.W. Bush; NBA basketball great Dikembe Mitumbo, who played college ball at Georgetown; and Ming Tsai, celebrity chef for fusion cuisine, who has a show, “Ming’s Quest,” on Living Cooking Network.

Receiving Tribute Awards for philanthropic work will be:

* Hewett-Packard.  HP’s work has significant overlap with the Points of Light focus areas, particularly education, the economy and the environment.  HP’s employee volunteer program’s efforts focus on building nonprofit and individual capacity to lead and find solutions to social problems.

* Environmentalist Charles Orgbon III, 18, of Atlanta, who started his Greening Forward initiative when he was 12. The organization works to help young people create environmental change in their communities by proving them with tools and resources.

* World Central Kitchen, a humanitarian organization founded by international chef José Andrés that helps feed the hungry. Its mission is to use the power of food to empower communities.

Points of Light honors individuals and organizations who best exemplify the ideal of service and voluntary action.  Points of Light has grown into a worldwide charitable organization, including a significant presence in China.  Points of Lights’ HandsOn China strives to develop long-term sustainable relationships with charities in China.

Performances will be by the Washington Chinese Dance Academy and child prodigy cellist Jun Justin Yu, the 8-year-old son of Chinese composer/conductor Zililang and Korean pianist Rho Aera. He has performed with the New York International Symphony Orchestra in Lincoln Center and at Carnegie Hall.  Justin appeared in the Ellen DeGeneres Show on NBC in September.

One of the live auction items at the gala will be the pair of colorful socks that President Bush wore during his parachute jump fron an airplane on his 90th birthday.  Unwashed, of course. What's better is that the infamous socks are in a framed case and includes an autographed photograph of the president's jump along with a signed personal note card from the president.

The media is invited to the awards dinner and must reserve for the event by e-mailing: For media and other questions, call 202-797-7373 or mobile 202-494-2490. Pre-registration and identification is mandatory for entrance to the embassy.

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