Taormina Film Festival: Back To Its Glamorous Roots
Now in its 65th year and set in one of the Sicilian coastline’s most ancient cities, the Taormina film festival is one of the oldest in the world, It also happens to have one of the most iconic original Greek theatres in the world and filmmakers who have their work shown in that magnificent arena can consider themselves very lucky. This year legendary director Bruce Beresford gets to see the audience reaction at the aptly named Teatro Antico for his latest, Ladies in Black, on opening night. Beresford will also receive the Taormina Arte Award. Other recipients of this honor during its six-day run, include Nicole Kidman, Peter Greenaway, Fulvio Lucisano and Phillip Noyce, Octavia Spencer and Martha Coolidge.
Since the Teatro is an open-air venue, the boiling sun during the day would prevent screenings, therefore only the main premieres can be shown after sunset. These include Danny Boyle’s Yesterday, the Kenya/UK production The Elephant Queen, Mimmo Calopresti’s Aspromonte, the wonderful Aretha Franklin doc Amazing Grace, Cruel Peter and Oliver Stone who is also the president of the main jury will have his acclaimed hit Born on the Fourth of July screened there – on July 4th, of course. The closing night film is Martha Coolidge’s I’ll Find You. The biggest Hollywood spectacle is Spiderman: Far From Home.
During the day, the festival program includes a series of international films with – obviously – a heavy focus on Italian cinema, as well as shorts, documentaries and a large variety of foreign films from France, Brazil, Germany, Pakistan, Cambodia, Canada, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Austria, Ecuador, Mexico, Australia, Japan, Poland, Turkey, Cuba and South Africa. Social, economic, racial and music themes dominate the documentary section. There will also be panel discussions with titles like “Filming Dangerously” and “Women Behind the Camera”. Conversations with filmmakers and actors such as Richard Dreyfuss and Alessandro Haber, Oliver Stone, Pierfrancesco Favino, Peter Greenaway and Nicole Kidman will provide insights into their careers and their projects.
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The festival has a long history of attracting stars which just may have to do with its unique and beautiful setting: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, Gregory Peck, and later Robert DeNiro, Colin Firth, Jessica Lange, Michael Douglas, Tom Cruise, and many others made their way into the Teatro on the ancient cobblestones. Those were the high times, however. The star power began to fade when the artistic part gave way to the business side of deal-making and distribution at festivals the world over. Whenever art is compromised for money, glamour and nostalgia go out the window. It is not surprising that the quest to bring back these exact elements is definitely an ambition for the organizers.
As festival directors – HFPA colleague Silvia Bizio and Gianvito Casadonte – both of whom stepped in their posts just last year, emphasize: “The goal has been to bring back the Taormina film fest as a force on the international scene,’, says Bizio, ‘ with a program that includes courageous films and documentaries, original films like A Son of Man, which its director describes as ‘fantastic realism’, and Sea of Shadows, a documentary about fishermen caught in the midst of the Chinese/Mexican mafia and the destruction of the vaquita, the smallest porpoise in the ocean. I am particularly proud of the fact that Apple has chosen the Taormina film fest for their first foray into the festival scene as a content producer, opening with their films Hala and The Elephant Queen and bringing us a sneak preview with a few clips of their new series Truth Be Told. I trust that its 65th edition will mark the return to the glorious festival it used to be.”