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:: FIFTY YEARS AGO, IN THE NEXT FIFTY

FIFTY YEARS AGO, IN THE NEXT FIFTY YEARS
by Felice Laudadio

Dedicated to Michelangelo
First day of shooting. In silence and smiling, as always, he suddenly
stands up from his director’s chair without ever ceasing
to look around, scanning everything and everyone among the
many around him, carefully and in silence. The small bay of
Portofino seems beautiful in spite of the drizzling, insistent, and
a bit irritating rain, the only audible sound. Somebody tries to
cover his head with a hat but immediately moves back, struck
by his proud and silent glance. In silence – with a simple gesture
of his hand – he begins. His smile disappears, his concentration
is complete, his look sprouts passion. And emotion.
Lights. Camera. Action! Suddenly everything becomes animated.
John and Sophie act with the same deep intensity and
strength they see in his eyes and in his wordless hand shake.
When he gestures Stop with a wave of his hand, Michelangelo
starts smiling again. Then he looks up with his proud and
drenched head, silently staring beyond the clouds.
F. L.


----------

 

I’’ve been directing festivals for 25 years, since 1979. That year the Taormina Film Festival was celebrating its 25th edition. Coincidences. Since then, I never stopped following it, observing it, even for simply professional reasons. Taormina wasn’t a “competitor”. Back then it was already an important and prestigious festival, and the minor festivals that I was organizing couldn’t compete with it by “stealing” its films or stars. It was then directed by Guglielmo Biraghi, and the sole name of the city was enough to evoke the festival, as it does today. At the time, the important festivals in Italy could be counted on the fingers of one hand: Venice was resurrecting from its ashes under the passionate direction of Carlo Lizzani and Enzo Ungari; Pesaro dominated the high cultural film events under the influential direction of Lino Micciché; film buffs found their natural landing place in Salsomaggiore, skillfully staged by Adriano Aprà e Marco Melani; MystFest had just been born and had immediately had an unexpected and surprising success that amazed even myself, who had invented it and directed it.
But Taormina (the festival of Taormina) was criticized most of all by us “alternative festival fans” for its excess of jet setters. That didn’t depend on the program choices made by Biraghi, but on the ostentation and opulence of the David di Donatello Awards, which it hosted and launched on live TV. On a cultural level, we supported the challenging film events already existing and those that began appearing in the crowded landscape of Italian and foreign festivals. It wasn’t just the astonishing beauty of the city of Taormina (which certainly helped, and still does) or the incomparable Greek Theater where the festival takes place. No, the true key to Taormina was and still is its capacity to discover and launch innovative new talents. Two representative names from the past: Peter Weir and Steven Spielberg; and perhaps filmgoers will certify other names in the future. Together with the discovery of new filmmakers (championed by all the festival’s directors after Biraghi moved on to Venice, from Sandro Anastasi to Enrico Ghezzi), there was and still is, naturally, the need to program films with strong entertainment value for the mass audiences of the Greek Theater, to steal them away from television and make them faithful to cinema. This is the reason behind the need for a double program: one for the indoor movie theaters of the Palazzo dei Congressi, and a second for the immense audiences of the Greek Theater. Debuting directors (this year, as well) have become so numerous that a BNL Award will be presented to a first feature film, as will a BNL-Sicilian Short Film Award, to be decided by an authoritative jury presided by German director Michael Verhoeven. Fifty years have passed since the first festival and many more will follow. And perhaps this is why it’s time to turn a page, naturally without revolutionizing anything. For example, after six years of interruption, it’s time to reintroduce an official competition and an official festival jury for our international program. This has been increasingly requested by directors and producers. Also, for a festival that brings to mind a transatlantic ship in constant navigation on the high seas, it might be useful to characterize the numerous sections that are dedicated to debuting, short, short feature films, and audiovisual footage of different formats and languages (many made with the use of the new digital technology) as a “Mediterranean Laboratory”. Besides this, we want to continue the extremely important Master Classes which reach their apex this year, gathering such talent as Jane Campion, Michael Douglas, Stephen Frears, Francesco Rosi, Margarethe von Trotta and Peter Weir, as well as a lab encounter with filmmakers and editors like Jon Jost and Roberto Perpignani who are interested in digital postproduction. And naturally, a lot more, without forgetting that the Taormina BNL FilmFest is a potential promotional launch for summer films, if only producers and distributors would keep in mind that Italy is a normal country where films could and should be released in summertime, just as in all other civilized countries. Finally, a careful reflection should be made together with the National Film Critics Union about how to weave the “Nastri d’Argento” event – back in Taormina for the past five years – into the festival’s general cultural, organizational and promotional strategy, while maintaining the complete autonomy of the two events. The Taormina Arte Committee is about to become a foundation. The consequences of this transformation are foreseen to be more than positive. The balance of these last years – most of all cultural, but also spectacular and “mediatic” – is strongly positive, which allows us to suppose that the public institutions and private sponsors who have supported us will renew their trust in a festival that is certainly unique in the landscape of Italian festivals, thanks to its 50% public-private financing.
A lot has been done already, and a lot remains to be done, with the same silent tenacity and determination that characterize the unending work of the greatest living filmmaker. The 92- year-old Michelangelo Antonioni has been a guest at many Taormina Film Festivals, and it is to him that we dedicate this 50th edition.

Thanks. Besides Antonino “Ninni” Panzera, an irreplaceable
and competent cultural and organizational accomplice, there
are many professionals, collaborators, and friends whose work
and suggestions contributed to the making of this 50th festival.
In 25 years of festival organization, often unfortunately characterized
by conflicting relationships with incompetent people
craving to interfere with the autonomy and choices of the artistic
director, I’ve never had teammates as passionate as these.
With tireless dedication, they have collaborated with me on the
past six editions of the Taormina BNL FilmFest. Their names are
listed on the first pages of this catalogue, lovingly and patiently
put together by Francesca Nigro. To everyone, a warm and
loving thank you.


..   Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali [link esterno al sito]  Azienda Autonoma di Soggiorno e Turismo [link esterno al sito]  L'Unione europea in linea [link esterno al sito]  .   Consorzio per le Autostrade Siciliane
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