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:: The presentation

What a strange year – 2006 – for the TaorminaFilmFest,
as it’s called now. We were forced to cut the days to
six, even due to the Soccer Worldwide Championship that
paralyzes everything, and not only in our country. We have
also been working for months without being able to rely on
the authoritative and beloved person of the lamented
mayor Aurelio Turiano – whom our caring thought goes to
– who, as Mario Bolognari, his predecessor, had always
guaranteed continuity, independence, and autonomy,
without being able to count on a successor. And also without
a regional council (and therefore competent councilmen),
since we are awaiting the new council after the elections
that just took place in the Region of Sicily, a main
partner of the Taormina film festival. This is the frame that
the difficult financial – and consequently also programmatic
– situation has set into, having been brusquely and
unreasonably abandoned by the sponsor that took part in
its functioning with nearly half a million euros a year,
slightly less than half the budget necessary to support the
second Italian Film Festival (and historically speaking the
first in South Italy), but eighteen times less than the budget
that the newly not-yet-born Rome film festival will be able
to count on, since this ex main sponsor has “converted”,
let’s say, in such direction.
In my introduction to the 2005 general catalogue, in a
drive of generous gratitude that eventually proved itself
naïve and untimely, I thanked the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro
(BNL) because it had contributed very much to relaunch
the festival of Taormina, significantly supported financially
for four years thanks to an agreement that I had
reached with its illuminated top managers of the time.
Reciprocal and evident advantages arose from such
agreement, and these advantages meant an undoubting
reinforcement of the festival but obviously of the image of
the bank, a dynamic and strongly motivated credit institute
motivated to take root in the showbiz and in the South,
mostly in Sicily. The relaunch of the festival was also ascribed
to the fact that in a very short time the “Taormina
BNL FilmFest” had become the “BNL FilmFest” for everyone,
including the media, which is fundamental for the
strategies of communication and marketing of a sponsor.
Simply and merrily “BNL FilmFest”. A brilliant yet involuntary
idea. An exceptional surplus. Both unrepeatable.
Since October 2005 (the bank hadn’t yet been acquired by the French BNP), BNL hasn’t been the main sponsor of
our festival, due to choices – which curiously I wonder
whether the new Board would agree upon – that have
nothing to do with the structure, the programs, and the indisputable
(and, in fact, not disputed) great results of the
Taormina festival. Instead it has much to do with other reasons
that we shall not hereby investigate, at least to avoid
unpleasant comparisons among festivals and embarrassing
polemics among local institutions, that have however,
I believe, just begun, hidden behind well-disguised good
manners. I don’t believe it’s necessary to add our festival
to such a foretold storm. This festival – the most important
and ancient film event of the South and perhaps of the
Mediterranean: so why kill it? – can be mostly proud of one
thing: of the total and complete organizational independence
and of the cultural, and most of all political, autonomy
it has enjoyed under my direction (and if it hadn’t
been so, I wouldn’t be here to direct it after 8 years, as
anyone who is familiar with me knows well).
Nonetheless, the 2006 Taormina festival hasn’t lost its grit
or strength. In such conditions, we transformed necessity
into virtue. Which explains the section entirely dedicated
to the Italian film landscape, that isn’t limited – as last year
– to award the films selected for the ItaliaFilmFest, but actually
presents them to the audience of Taormina and in
particular to the many foreign journalists that come here,
first of all the FIPRESCI critics, who hold their yearly convention
here and offer a determinant contribution to the
Jury composition that will award the prestigious acknowledgments.
This section consecrated to Italian cinema will
need to be a necessary future, reconfirming a tradition that
strongly bonds our domestic cinema to the Festival of
Taormina, with the David di Donatello first, then with the
Nastro d’Argento awards, and today with the ItaliaFilmFest
(that will be presented again at the Casa del Cinema in
Rome, from July 10th to 14th).
The rest of the program, more restrained yet rigorous, and
also amusing as always, more or less tags along with the
recent past editions: the “Film Lessons”, held by prestigious
filmmakers; great spectacular movies – or great for
the emotional impact – at the Ancient Theater; the International
Short Films Section; a few special events with Sicilian
background; and at last, starting from this year, a competitive
section dedicated to Italian documentaries that will by judged by the passionate audience of the TaorminaFilmFest.
However, next year, in order to survive, this
festival will need to return to its former planning at the end
of July (21-28 in 2007), as I had suggested last year. It’s
useless to continue fooling ourselves: the summer season
of great films and great stars has never become a reality
and perhaps never will in Italy. And the international stars
(meaning, American stars) that are necessary to launch a
movie – and excite chief-editors and photographers –
travel exclusively on extremely costly private airplanes that
not even prestigious distributors can afford – only the majors
can, as well as very few and very rich festivals
(Cannes, Rome?). It is therefore necessary to survive
(happily) without them. So why suicide Taormina with
dates that are so close to Cannes and in absence of important
summer releases that justify the reason itself of illuminating
the screen of a (marvelous and expensive)
monster as the Greek Theater?
In spite of it all, however, the festival of Taormina 2006 resists,
indomitable. But only because it’s living an exceptionally
negative conjunctural situation, an unrepeatable
unicum. Consciously proud of being the most prestigious
and ancient film event of South Italy with a history longer
than 50 years, the TaorminaFilmFest will not allow anything
to destroy it, neither short-sighted sponsors, nor “unfair
competition”, quoting the title of a movie by Ettore Scola,
and not even a transitory yet serious financial crisis. We
owe this success to the extraordinary and abundant audience
of filmgoers, to the collaborators of Taormina and
Rome (to whom my most sincere thanks goes to for the
enormous effort made this year), and most of all to its private
partners and institutional promoters: first of all, the
Region of Sicily and the General Direction of Cinema of the
Ministry of Arts and Culture.
Perhaps it isn’t a damage that from 2007 everything we will
be starting all over again: a new Regional Councilman for
Culture and Tourism, a new Minister of Arts and Culture, a
new institution – the fundamental Taormina Art Foundation
– a totally and necessarily renovated formula, and, if necessary,
a new artistic director, since this one would
hardly accept to continue working under the same conditions
of this 2006 edition. Better let go, rather than “fix”
things as best as possible, once more. It wouldn’t be serious,
to use Pirandello’s words.


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