Academy Award Actor Roberto Benigni To Receive Entertainment Award at the Nation’s Largest Italian American GALA ** 3,000 Guests To Join in Celebration **


Contact:   Elissa Ruffino (NIAF) 202/939-3106 or

(Washington, DC – October 2, 2003) Academy Award–winning actorRoberto Benigni will receive the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) Year 2003 Special Achievement Award in Entertainment at the Foundation’s 28th Anniversary Awards Gala, Saturday evening, October 25 at the Hilton Washington & Towers in Washington, DC. The NIAF gala will be attended by 3,000 prominent Italian American leaders in business, the arts, entertainment, sports and public service.

Joining Benigni as this year’s NIAF honorees are: Joseph Galli Jr., chief executive officer of Newell Rubbermaid Inc.; Larry W. Sonsini, chairman and CEO of the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; and Thomas Tizzio, senior vice chairman of American International Group (AIG).

Benigni is the first actor to win a Best Actor Oscar for a non-English speaking role in La Vita é Bella (Life is Beautiful), which also won Best Foreign–Language Film in 1998. During World War II, Benigni’s father was a prisoner at the Nazi’s dreaded Erfurt prisoner-of-war camp for two years. His father’s wartime experiences served as the basis and inspiration for Life is Beautiful, which Benigni co-wrote with Vincenzo Cerami. Benigni and Laurence Olivier are the only two actors to have directed themselves in Oscar winning performances. Born in a small village in Arezzo, Tuscany, Benigni learned the Italian tradition of improvised song and poetry while in his teens and became part of Rome’s underground theater in the late 1960s. His wife, actress Nicoletta Braschi, who has established Melampo, their independent production company, has acted in all the films that Benigni has directed, including Johnny Stecchino and Life is Beautiful.

During the Gala Awards weekend, NIAF will also feature conferences, including “Children of the Greats,” exhibits, the traditional celebrity auction, and a seminar on tourism. Molise is this year’s sponsoring region from Italy.

Dinner tickets begin at $350 per person based on table location. Attire: Black tie. Proceeds from the event will benefit the NIAF Scholarship and Education Programs. For tickets or sponsor information, contact Michael Sanzi at 202/939-3105 or or register on-line