Coen Brothers

Photo by YehoshuaYosef/Flash90.
Joel and Ethan Coen at Tel aviv university after winning the Dan David Prize.

American filmmakers, Joel and Ethan Coen were awarded the Dan David Prize worth $1 million at Tel Aviv University yesterday for their contribution to filmmaking.

The brothers, who have co-written and directed films such as True Grit, No Country for Old Men, Fargo, and The Big Lebowski, won the prize according to the prize winning committee “for their ability to tell a simple story in a complex manner.”

At the awards ceremony, held at Tel Aviv University (TAU), and attended by President Shimon Peres and 2010 prizewinner Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, Joel Coen told the audience that it was a “great honor” to win the prize. “It was unsolicited and unexpected so it was an even greater honor,” he said.

The Dan David Foundation awards three prizes every year for outstanding achievement, in past, present and future categories.

In honoring the Coen brothers, the prize committee wrote: “With control over final cut of their films, their creative involvement makes them a creative partnership unique in the history of filmmaking.”
Joel Coen told reporters earlier in the day that his mother had lived in Israel, and that he had wanted to visit Israel for a long time.

Winner of the past section was Prof. Marcus Feldman of the Stanford University School of Medicine for his work in the evolutionary sciences. The committee praised Feldman’s work, which they said had broad applications in understanding animal and plant evolution: “His work has led to highly focused insights of cultural significance such as the out-of-Africa model of human evolution, as well as cultural preferences in different civilizations.”

At the ceremony Feldman said: “People around the world are genetically very similar. Only 10 percent of differences are between continents, the rest is between people on the same continents. Our whole concept of racial differences must be revised.”

The “future” section was shared by Professor Cynthia Kenyon of the University of California, San Francisco, and Harvard Medical School Professor Gary Ruvkun for their groundbreaking work in gerontology – the study of aging.

“Cynthia Kenyon is recognized as a pioneer most responsible for first showing that the aging of the C. elegans worm is under genetic control,” the prize committee said. Ruvkun is being rewarded for “a huge contribution to the future of human health with the discovery of metabolic genes with universal influence on aging.”

This was the 10th year of the Dan David awards, which was set up by international businessman and philanthropist Dan David and is headquartered at TAU. Past recipients include Al Gore, Amos Oz, Tony Blair and Yo-Yo Ma.

Ten percent of the recipients’ prize money is donated to doctorate and post-doctorate student grants.