May 30, 2011

All eyes on amFAR benefit gala at the 64th Cannes Film Festival

Doutzen Kroes – 2011 amfAR Cinema Against AIDS
Courtney Love,  Janet Jackson, and Gwen Stefani 2011 amfAR Cinema Against AIDS

Cannes is not all about films, celebrities, new talent discoveries and film deals, film marketing negotiations, paparazzi, shopping, and partying. Being one of the most influential and known festival in the world, it offers a platform for cause outreaching. With the abundance of influential people from around the world, the festival allows for an opportunity for all the celebrities who care about a certain issue to raise awareness for a cause - whether it's world's poverty, disease, natural disasters, environment, etc.

In 2009, for example, the Hollywood actor George Clooney presented the festival's attendees with an agenda on how to help Darfur. U2's Bono is always in Cannes to support and promote it's ONE organization to fight AIDS. His wife, mind you, is also into charities and causes and she fights human trafficking in Eastern Europe. And Sharon Stone, known as the most "obnoxious" - in a good sense of this word - supporter of the cause has been known for not stopping at anything to raise funds for amfAR - she sings, she dances and she makes fun of herself. And it's all respectful and appreciated, because each time she does it, amfAR organization becomes by a few millions richer...In 2008 the amfAR's live auction raised $7 million.

Sharon Stone at previous amfAR benefit gala in Cannes

amfAR's annual Cinema Against AIDS galas have been important and successful fund-raising events for the Foundation since 1993, generating nearly $44 million for essential AIDS research.Each year the most prominent figures in showbiz come to amfAR to participate in raising the money.

This year, however, Sharon Stone was noticeably absent, as well as her pal Madonna, who along with Elizabeth Taylor, Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, Sir Elton John chaired past amfAR events. However, the most noticeably - sadly - absent person at the event was Elizabeth Taylor, who the present event attendees paid the tribute. Everyone knows how much Taylor has done for the organization in the past. She's been a vivid supporter of fighting AIDS all her life. She was among the first celebrities to campaign about AIDS and HIV. The Hollywood icon has died on May 23, 2001. She was 79.

 "At the very beginning she spoke up when others wouldn't, said things that others hadn't, and she was very bold and brave in stating her conviction," said amfAR chairman Kenneth Cole. "To a large degree we're where we are because of her," he added.

Like the epidemic itself, AIDS research knows no borders. amfAR’s programs have had a global reach since 1986, when the Foundation began awarding international grants. Today, amfAR continues to fund HIV/AIDS researchers worldwide and works to translate that research into effective treatment, prevention, and education programs around the globe.

The gala always includes a formal dinner, along with a world-renowned live auction, all to benefit amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research. The gala's main presenters tireless advocate for AIDS research and for amfAR and help conduct the highly anticipated live auction with the assistance of several of the event chairs and other celebrities in attendance.

Looking back: Sharon Stone’s amfAR benefit Gala in 2009

Two years ago, on May 21, 2009 such celebrities and influencers as Stella McCartney, Sophie Coppola, Kenneth Cole, Michelle Yeoh, Annie Lennox, and Donatella Versace donated and participated in live auction, offering personal items of special value. President Bill Clinton was the honored guest at amfAR's Cinema Against AIDS. His work against HIV/AIDS has helped millions of people around the world.

Quentin Tarantino’s much anticipated and wanted “Inglorious Basterds” was one of the auction 'items'. A private screening for 50 of Quentin Tarantino and The Weinstein Company's 'Inglourious Basterds' followed by an exclusive after-party and three-course dinner at Cipriani Wall Street.

Other items that were up for auction that year included President Clinton's Personal Saxophone, personally autographed by Clinton for the winning bidder at the event; a one-of-a-kind Fiat 500 car, custom-designed by Renzo Rosso of Diesel; a pair of private tennis lessons, one with tennis legend Monica Seles and one with Jelena Jankovic, and a Milan Fashion Week package, including access to the most coveted shows: Missoni, Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana, Pucci, D Squared, and more, along with two tickets to amfAR's inaugural Milan event.

Today: sans Sharon Stone’s amfAR benefit Gala still reaches the fundraising record of 10 million dollars

Despite the last years turmoil in the economy across the globe, this year's festival proved that everyone is slowing overcoming the financial crisis. The Stars were out in force at this year's film soirees, both on land and out in the sea - where luxury yachts provided a more intimate setting for the pleasures of fine food, wine and music, sans the paparazzi.

The festive mood of the festival has also translated onto the cause events, raising more money than the previous few years. On May 19, the annual amfAR "Cinema Against AIDS" dinner - one of the big dates on the party circuit - was held again this year at the exclusive Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, a short drive from Cannes.

Among those who made the trip were film festival jury president Robert De Niro, Brooke Shields, Gwen Stefani, Donatella Versace, Sean Penn, Kanye West, Milla Jovovich, Rosario Dawson, Uma Thurman , Janet Jackson, Kirstin Dunst, Naomi Campbell, Dev Patel, left, Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), Patrick Dempsey with his wife Jillian Fink , Kiera Chaplin , Courtney Love, Mischa Barton, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, Luke Evans, Jane Fonda, and Goldie Hawn, etc.

This year's amfAR torch was taken over by the model and actress Milla Jovovich, who took over the stage and sang sang "I Want to be Loved by You". This year's amfAR gala raised $10 million, the most a single event that has raised in amfAR history. Elizabeth Taylor had "lit the flame, and we must carry the torch in the fight against AIDS," - said Jackson.
During the auction, hundreds of guests were invited to bid for items ranging from rare luxury items to exclusive holidays.

The press in attendance reports that "the top lot on the night was the opportunity to play tennis with Prince Albert II of Monaco, son of the late Hollywood actress Grace Kelly, for which a bidder paid 500,000 euros. While his fiancee, South African former Olympic swimmer and model Charlene Wittstock, raised the same amount with an impromptu offer of a private swimming lesson, taking the couple's total contribution to the night to one million euros. A limited edition Herb Ritts photograph of Taylor sold for 150,000 euros, and a signed and dated lithograph of Andy Warhol's "Liz" went under the hammer for 400,000 euros. Courtney Love gave an impromptu performance as well." - Reuters.

Elsewhere during the festival, dance music thumped late into the night along the narrow beach in Cannes as the invited jostled with gate grashers to get past stern security guards and PR staff with clipboards and guest lists.

Many prominent industry publications from around the world were present at the event to capture every details of amfAR activities, including the guests' fashion and dates. Many fashion and film bloggers reported back on who they saw, what they ate and what they wore.

A French Garance Dore, a well-known fashion photoblogger, came to the event with her man - another famous photoblogger Scott Schuman, whose street fashioin blog The Sartorialist draws millions of viewers from around the world. Dore then wrote on her blog:

I am seating near Patrick Dempsey. Sean Penn is not far either. Robert de Niro passes in front of me like 12 times. So? Team de Niro.
“Of course I wear Spanx.” “Oooo, you too?!!!” “Oh, come on girls, we’re all wearing Spanx” “Yeah, get over it, we’re all wrapped up like Toutankhamon”.
I’ve never seen so many amazing evening gowns in my life. And never this many fashion faux-pas either, seeing as tricky it is trying to get dressed for an event like this. That said, I have totally figured out a rather mathematical formula: Absolute amazement caused by 1 sublime evening gown divided by the terribleness of 20 terrible outfits = 0. The quotient of amazingness bears far more weight than terribleness therefore this is the best dressed event I’ve ever been to.
You never eat dessert at these kinds of dinners. I’ve never understood why, but you just don’t, and that’s how it is.
Coolest girl of the night : Janet Jackson in Haider Ackerman… Remarkably awesome.
The AmFar toilets… I get there, still a little shaken up after walking through the main room alone with so many people so well dressed. And right there, I stumble across a little gathering of top models in these giant couture gowns. Hilarious and so sublime. I wait my turn. I end up going into a stall right after Naomi Campbell. I know. This anecdote was not necessary."....

Garance Dore
In past years, the Cannes auction has seen legendary impromptu performances by Sir Elton John, Mary J Blige, Kylie Minogue, Robin Williams, Natalie Cole, Liza Minnelli, Sheryl Crow, Ringo Starr, Macy Gray, and Lionel Ritchie. And who can forget every time the very brave Sharon Stone herself, who has helped to energize the crowd every time – be it an impromptu dance or an act of a brave display of sexuality.

Yes, the Cannes Film Festival might be all about business and recognition for some celebrities…and they celebrate their achievements and success of raising a good sum of donations in style - with a bit of French Riviera's tan, champagne and caviar.

Fabulous attendees of the gala

About amfAR

amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $290 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.
To learn how you can contribute to amfAR, click here.

More on 64th Cannes Film Festival:

For all the Cannes photo, video and gossip updates, please visit me on Twitter. There, if you missed anything during the festival's activities, you'd be able to find details about parties, celebrities, special events, film screenings, fashion and more of the 64th Cannes Film Festival.

See complete photogallery from the amfAR gala here.

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