Al Milgrom, far left, charms the crowd at a benefit for his medical bills. Seated left to right: Event organizer Tim Grady, Catherine Allan and co-host Sylvia Kaplan.

"Beloved" and "legend" are terms that get tossed around more frequently and lightly than they should. But both easily apply to the guest of honor at Sam and Sylvia Kaplan's riverfront home Thursday evening.

The house was packed with well-wishers as fans of Al Milgrom turned out for a fundraiser to help offset the nonagenarian film-scene icon's medical bills.

Milgrom, the force behind bringing cinema from around the world to the Twin Cities 35 years ago with the first Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival and tirelessly nurturing and promoting it from then on, is the most revered eminence grise of the local film community. After a fall and subsequent hospital stay in Berlin two years ago while attending the annual film fest there, the 92-year-old Milgrom incurred some hefty expenses. 

Faces in the crowd included former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak, MN Film & TV board director Lucinda Winter, producer/director Craig Rice, Minnesota State Arts Board director Sue Gens, photographer Stuart Klipper, documentarian Catherine Allan and her husband Tim Grady of Adopt Films, who organized the benefit.

Addressing the attendees, Grady recalled the time he brought Nuri Bilge Ceylan,Turkish director of the Palme d' Or winner "Winter Sleep," of which Adopt Films is the American distributor, to town. Ceylan asked Grady who this old guy talking to him was. When Grady told him, he said, "Well, he knows more about Turkish cinema than anyone in Turkey!"

Sam Kaplan noted that while he's used to employing a bit of friendly but firm persuasion to guarantee healthy attendance at such affairs, this time he didn't have to.

MIlgrom said he appreciated everyone turning out, but he had to get home because "I'm writing a grant for Legacy funds to get a film about a Czech polka band from New Prague off the ground and the deadline is tomorrow. Now let's see, I have to come up with all the reasons we need to keep Czech culture going...."

Crowdfunding donations for Milgrom may be made at www.gofundme.com/milgrom.

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