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F E S T I V A L 2 0 1 9
CATALOGUE | TAORMINA FILM FEST 2019
Amazing Grace (Realized and Produced by Alan Elliott, 89’, USA, 2018)
Decades in the making, Amazing Grace is a transcendent, soul-raising work of filmmaking filled to the brim with raw emotion and passion by the inimitable Aretha Franklin. Shot over the course of two days by a Sydney Pollack-led crew at a church in Los Angeles, this holy grail of music docs finds Franklin returning to her gospel roots with an audience that includes her own father and Mick Jagger. This instant-classic is a towering testament to the peerless power of Franklin’s artistry.
Alan Elliott is a veteran music executive. Amazing Grace is his passion project.
Aspromonte, Land of the Forgotten (Dir. Mimmo Palopresti, 89’, Italy, 2019)
Mimmo Calopresti’s latest, Aspromonte, Land of the Forgotten, is a 1950’s-set Western about a woman who dies during childbirth due to the fact that her Calabrian village is completely disconnected from the rest of the world. A film about dreams and redemption, Aspromonte is a fulfilling new epic from a great filmmaker. Starring Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Marcello Fonte, Francesco Colella, Marco Leonard, Sergio Rubini.
Mimmo Calopresti is a Calabrian-born writer/director best known for La seconda volta, La parola amore esiste, and Volevo solo vivere, among others.
Born on the Fourth of July (Dir. Oliver Stone, 145’, USA, 1989)
Winner of two Oscars including Best Director, Oliver Stone’s searing Vietnam War epic, Born on the Fourth of July, follows Ron Kovic, a soldier who becomes an anti-war activist after being paralyzed during the war. Co-written with Kovic, Stone’s film is a highlight in his legendary filmography for its raw power and Tom Cruise’s astonishingly committed Oscar-nominated performance at its center.
Starring Tom Cruise, Kyra Sedgwick.
Oliver Stone is best known as the director of Platoon (Oscar win for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay nomination), Born on the Fourth of July (Oscar win for Best Director, nominations for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay), JFK (Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay).
Cruel Peter (Dirs. Ascanio Malgarini, Christian Bisceglia, 90’, Italy, 2019)
Peter, a wicked, spoiled boy who hurts everyone and everything in his path, is locked away in a place where no one can find him. However, 111 years later, Peter is still there, waiting to come back. Reminiscent of such horror classics as The Orphanage and Don’t Look Now, Cruel Peter is a chiller that lovingly pays homage to those films while standing on its own. Starring Henry Douthwaite, Zoe Nochi, Katia Greco, Rosie Fellner, Aran Bevan, Aurora Quattrocchi.
Ascanio Malgarini is a filmmaker best known for directing The Haunting of Helena.
Christian Bisceglia is a filmmaker best known for writing and directing The Haunting of Helena and Matchmaker.
The Elephant Queen (Dirs. Mark Deeble, Victoria Stone, 96’, Kenya/UK, 2019)
Narrated by Oscar-nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, The Elephant Queen follows Athena, an African elephant, who must protect her herd when they are forced to leave their watering hole due to a drought. This humane, moving film is a visually resplendent look at wild animal life as well as a testament to the power of family and the perseverance of the African elephant to survive massive odds.
Mark Deeble are the directors of The Queen of Trees and Tale of the Tides: The Hyaena and the Mudskipper.
I’ll Find You (Dir. Martha Coolidge, 115’, USA, 2019)
I’ll Find You marks veteran director Martha Coolidge’s first film in over a decade and tells the story of two musicians, Robert and Rachel, whose dreams are smashed by the German invasion of Poland. Robert makes it his mission to find Rachel at any cost in this wrenching drama co-starring Connie Nielsen and Stellan Skarsgård. Starring Adelaide Clemens, Leo Suter, Stellan Skarsgård, Connie Nielsen, Stephen Dorff.
Martha Coolidge is the director of such films as Valley Girl, Real Genius, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, Angie, and Rambling Rose.
Ladies in Black (Dir. Bruce Beresford, 109’, Australia, 2018)
Starring Julia Ormond and Angourie Rice and adapted from Madeleine St. John’s bestselling novel, Ladies in Black is a sweet, big-hearted dramedy about the lives of a few women working in a department store in 1950s Australia. Featuring terrific performances from its talented ensemble, Beresford’s film reminds us once again why he is one of Australian cinema’s most beloved auteurs. Starring Julia Ormond, Angourie Rice.
Bruce Beresford’s best-known film is Driving Miss Daisy which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1989. Other notable films include Breaker Morant (Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay) and Tender Mercies (Oscar nomination for Best Director).
Spider-Man: Far From Home (Dir. Jon Watts, 135’, USA, 2019)
Jon Watts follows up his critically-acclaimed smash hit, Spider-Man: Homecoming, with Spider-Man: Far From Home, a film that takes place after Avengers: Endgame and finds Spider-Man taking on more threats than before. With an all-star cast that includes Tom Holland, Zendaya, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jake Gyllenhaal, Spider-Man: Far From Home promises to be one of the summer’s most exciting blockbusters. Starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Jon Watts is a filmmaker best known for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Cop Car, and Clown.
Yesterday (Dir. Danny Boyle, 112’, UK, 2019)
From Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle and Oscar-nominated writer Richard Curtis comes Yesterday. After a worldwide blackout, Jack (Himesh Patel in a star-making performance) discovers that The Beatles never existed and struggles knowing that he’s the only person on Earth who knows them and their music. Featuring a stellar supporting cast that includes Lily James, Kate McKinnon, and Ed Sheeran, Yesterday is a winning comedy from some of the greatest creative minds working today. Starring Himesh Patel, Lily James, Ed Sheeran.
Danny Boyle is the director of Slumdog Millionaire (Oscar win for Best Director), 127 Hours (Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay), and Trainspotting, among others.
Allahu Akbar (Dirs. Farhan Alam, Farhat Qazi, 87’, Pakistan, 2019)
Allahu Akbar, a drama about a Pakistani woman who fights against a sexist society, couldn’t be more urgent or timely.
Directed by and starring Farhat Qazi, Allahu Akbar is a brave statement from a courageous filmmaker about life in modern-day Pakistan bravely that stares such subjects as child marriage and poverty in the face. Starring Farhat Qazi, Shabbir Jan, Qavi Khan.
Farhan Alam is an award-winning director and cinematographer best known for his film, Sawaan, which was Pakistan’s submission to the 90th Academy Awards.
Farhat Qazi is an entrepreneur who has a passion for women’s rights and speaks out against injustices to the less fortunate. Allahu Akbar is her debut feature.
Azali (Dir. Kwabena Gyansah, 89’, Ghana-West Africa, 2018)
Amina, a 14-year-old girl with a bright future, is sent to work in Burkina Faso, by her mother out of desperation. The “work” turns out to be a child smuggling syndicate, and after rescue and a brief stay in an orphanage, Amina and other children set out in search of a better life in Accra. Gritty and authentic, Azali is another wonderful film from the burgeoning Ghanaian film industry. Starring Asana Alhasan, Akofa Edjeani.
Director Kwabena Gyansah is making his debut feature with Azali.
Ellen (Dir. Daryne Joshua, 123’, South Africa, 2018)
Based on a harrowing true story, Ellen traces the relationship between a mother and her son that eventually led to filicide. Daryne Joshua’s sensitive film weaves together two storylines and delves into what would cause a mother to kill her own son. Starring Jill Levenberg, Jarrid Geduld, Elton Landrew, Clint Brink.
Daryne Joshua is best known for his directorial debut, Noem My Skollie (Call Me Thief), which was selected as South Africa’s submission to the Academy Awards.
Hala (Dir. Minhal Baig, 94’, USA, 2019)
Based on director Minhal Baig’s short of the same name, Hala is a quiet film that follows a Muslim teen on her journey to adulthood. Led by a beautiful performance from Geraldine Viswanathan (a breakout in the 2018 comedy, Blockers), Hala is a drama acutely told from a new perspective. Starring Geraldine Viswanathan, Jack Kilmer.
Minhal Baig directed 1 Night and has written for the hit TV show Ramy.
Imaginary Order (Dir. Debra Eisenstadt, 101’, USA, 2019)
In Debra Eisenstadt’s Imaginary Order, an obsessive-compulsive housewife, Cathy, struggles to keep her life together when everything around her is upended. Led by Wendi McLendon-Covey’s powerhouse lead performance, Imaginary Order is a provocative treat. Starring Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kate Alberts.
Debra Eisenstadt works as a writer, director, producer and editor. She began her career as an actress, on and off Broadway and for film and television. Most notably, she starred in the theater and film versions of David Mamet’s “Oleanna”. Eisenstadt has helmed 4 feature films.
In the Life of Music (Dirs. Caylee So, Visal Sok, 92’, USA/Cambodia, 2018)
Caylee So and Visal Sok’s lyrical film, In the Life of Music, is a decades-spanning drama about the power the song “Champa Battambang” has on a family. Exploring the cross-generational impact of music, this striking film is simultaneously epic and intimate. Starring Vandarith Phem, Sreynan Chea, Roza Las.
Caylee So is an award-winning director. In the Life of Music is her narrative feature directorial debut.
Sok Visal is a Cambodian-French filmmaker and music producer. He is best known for his films Kroab Pich and Poppy Goes to Hollywood.
Nido de Mantis (Dir. Arturo Sotto Díaz, 118’, Cuba, 2018)
Accused of murder, Sugar has only ten days to convince her own attorney and the public prosecutor that she is not a murderer.
Set in turbulent 1994 Cuba when many were leaving for the United States, this film casts a compassionate light on people too often neglected in film. Starring Armando Miguel Gómez, Caleb Casas, Yara Massiel, Luis Alberto García.
Arturo Sotto Díaz is the director of such films as Boccaccerías Habaneras, Night of the Innocents, and Habana Abierta.
Picciridda (Dir. Paolo Licata, 95’, Italy, 2019)
A haunting story of innocence lost and dignity found, Paolo Licata’s Piccirdda follows Lucia, a 10-year-old whose parents leave her with her emotionally-cold grandmother when they emigrate to France to look for work. Lucia explores the world of adults for the first time but eventually turns back to her grandmother for protection.
Starring Lucia Sardo, Marta Castiglia, Ileana Rigano.
Paolo Licata is a filmmaker best known for his award-winning shorts. Picciridda is his feature debut.
Show Me What You Got (Dir. Svetlana Cvetko, 100’, USA/Italy/Georgia, 2019)
Three young people experiment sexually and prove their worth in the world in Svetlana Cvetko’s impressive feature directorial debut, Show Me What You Got. Executive-produced by acclaimed filmmaker Phillip Noyce, this exquisitely-shot black-and-white drama calls to mind the best of the French New Wave while developing a style and voice all its own. Starring Christina Rambaldi, Mattia Minasi, Neyssan Falahi.
Svetlana Cvetko is a renowned cinematographer for acclaimed documentaries such as Inside Job, Facing Fear, Red Army, and Inequality For All. Show Me What You Got is her feature directorial debut, and she recently directed Deadly Switch for Netflix.
A Son of Man (Dir. Jamaicanoproblem, 91’, Ecuador, 2018)
When Pipe goes on a quest with his father to find lost Inca gold, family demons resurface as they venture deeper into the jungle.
Filmed on location in the Amazon, the uniquely surreal A Son of Man is an adventure like no other that blurs the lines between documentary and fiction. Starring Luis Felipe FernandezSalvador y Campodonico, Luis Felipe Fernandez-Salvador y Boloña.
Director Jamaicanoproblem is an Amazon explorer. A Son of a Man is his feature directorial debut.
The Song of the Tree (Dir. Aibek Daiyrbekov, 93’, Kyrgyzstan/Russia, 2018)
A Kyrgyzstani musical set in a nomadic community in the 18 th Century, The Song of the Tree is no one’s idea of a conventional film and is all the better for it. Through expressive music and lush widescreen imagery that showcases the landscape against which the film is set, The Song of the Tree tells an affecting story of tradition, forbidden love, and change. Starring Temirlan Smanbekov, Omurbek Izrailov, Saltanat Bakaeva.
Aibek Daiyrbekov is the youngest president of Kyrgyzstan's Film Union. The Song of the Tree is his feature debut.
Them That Follow (Dirs. Britt Poulton, Dan Madison Savage, 98’, USA, 2019)
Set in an isolated Appalachian community of snake-handling church-goers, this disturbing, thoughtprovoking film explores what happens when the church pastor’s daughter begins to question her faith and community. Them That Follow is a showcase for brilliant work by Oscar-winner Olivia Colman, Walton Goggins, Alice Englert, Kaitlyn Dever, Jim Gaffigan, and Thomas Mann and is a strong calling card for debuting directors Britt Poulson and Dan Madison Savage. Starring Olivia Colman, Thomas Mann, Alice Englert.
Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage are making their feature directorial debuts with Them That Follow.
This Teacher (Dir. Mark Jackson, 95’, USA, 2018)
Cesar-winner Hafsia Herzi stars as a French-Muslim woman who takes a trip to a cabin in New York, only to be disturbed by a bigoted American couple. Fueled by Herzi’s riveting performance, Mark Jackson’s This Teacher is a humanizing drama that gives a voice to the underrepresented. Starring Hafsia Herzi, Sarah Kazemy, Lucy Walters, Kevin Kane.
Mark Jackson is the director of Without and War Story. Jackson’s films have won 17 awards including an Independent Spirit Award and a Gotham Nomination. He is a Sundance, Cinereach and Skywalker Sound Fellow.
Vai (Dir. Beca Arahanga, et al., 90’, Āotearoa New Zealand, 2019)
Much of Vai’s uniqueness lies in the fact that it was directed by nine different female Pacific filmmakers in seven Pacific countries. These women tell the story of a woman’s empowerment throughout eight different moments in her life. Visually ravishing and powerful. Starring Mereani Tuimatanisiga, ‘ArRamadi Longopoa, Betsy Luitolo.
Becs Arahanga (Kai Tahu/ Ngati Raukawa ōku Iwi, Kati Mako te Hapū) wrote and directed the short film “Laundry” at the end of 2016. Becs has also just completed filming on her next film, Hinekura, set to release in 2019.
Amberley Jo Aumua (Ngāti Hāua - New Zealand / Salelesi, Toamua, Mamau Tai - Samoa) is of Samoan and Māori descent from Manurewa, New Zealand. Her first short film “Waiting” has currently screened in over twenty film festivals, most recently at the 2018 BFI London Film Festival. She is currently researching and writing her feature film and working on other projects.
Matasila Freshwater (Nusa Hope, Roviana Lagoon (Western Province) / Matakota, Dugaha and Baguri / Vuregare) is a writer/director with a background in anthropology, film, and animation.
Matasila’s animated short film, “Shmeat”, was a New Zealand International Film Festival Official Selection for New Zealand’s Best Short Film and appeared in a number of festivals including 2016 Sitges International Fantasy Film Festival.
Dianna Fuemana’s (Mutalau - Niue / America Samoa / Pago Pago) career as a playwright and theatre director spans twenty years with her plays being published and produced internationally.
Her first short film, “Sunday Fun Day”, was shot in 2016.
‘Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki (Talau & Falaleu - Vava’u / Vaini & Malapo - Tongatapu) holds close to her heart her relationship with God, her grounded principles in gender equity, feminism, human rights and the right of every human being to live a life of dignity regardless of colour, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender and religion. She does many things but what she loves most is telling stories in whatever possible way she can. She prioritises giving voice to the lived realities of women and children's stories across the Pacific.
Marina Alofagia McCartney (Pito Nu'u, Satupa'itea, Savai'i - Samoa and Vailoa / Palauli, Savai'i - Samoa / Geordie - England) is from a Geordie Father, Samoan Mother and Cook Islands StepMother. Marina is powerfully aware of her cultural heritage, how this affects the way we are viewed and how we view others. She is an award- winning filmmaker and teaching fellow at Pacific Studies, University of Auckland.
Nicole Whippy (Tota, Matagali - Mavana, Vanua Balavu, Lau, Fiji / Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji / New Caledonia / New Zealand) was born in Suva, Fiji where she lived for the first couple of years of her life until her family migrated to NZ. She is best known for her work as a Television and Theatre Actress. Vai will be her film directorial debut.
Sharon Whippy (Tota, Matagali - Mavana, Vanua Balavu, Lau, Fiji / Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji / New Caledonia / New Zealand) makes her directorial debut with Vai.
Aether (Dir. Rûken Tekeş, 82’, Turkey, 2019)
The land of Hasankeyf in modern-day Turkey has 12,000 years of history. It is also the homeland of director Rûken Tekeş and a controversial project to flood the area in order to provide hydroelectric power provokes Tekeş to travel there.
Over the course of three weeks, Tekeş documents her soon-to-be-lost home, capturing it in all its natural beauty, with the result being this luminous documentary.
Rûken Tekeş is a self-taught filmmaker whose first short, “Hevêrk / The Circle”, was nominated for a European Film Award. Aether is her feature debut.
The Biggest Little Farm (Dir. John Chester, 91’, USA, 2018)
After adopting a new dog, John and Molly Chester decide to leave their urban lifestyle behind in order to create a self-sustaining ecosystem on a farm in California. They quickly discover, however, that bringing this dream to fruition is full of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Visually ravishing and unexpectedly profound, The Biggest Little Farm celebrates the wonder, mystery, and beauty of nature in all of its complexity.
John Chester is best known for directing Rock Prophecies and Lost in Woonsocket.
Desolation Center (Dir. Stuart Swezey, 94’, USA, 2018)
Long before Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Burning Man and gatherings in the Southern Californian desert that were wild and dangerous and featured cultural sensations, there were incredible performances. With a mix of interviews, rare concert footage, and animation, Desolation Center is a fascinating multimedia glimpse into a different time.
Stuary Swezey began his creative career organizing the Desolation Center events. He produced the documentary Better Living Through Circuitry and worked as a cable television executive, producer, and showrunner.
Dallas in Prizzi (Dir. Luca Vullo, 43’, Italy, 2018)
When David Atkinson traveled to an ancient Sicilian town on a mountainside, Prizzi, he fell in love. Just before Easter, Atkinson brought in a group of Dallas-based artists to paint murals to celebrate the town, and the townspeople and the artists formed a deep friendship. Dallas in Prizzi is love-letter to Sicily and the enduring power of art as a unifier.
Luca Vullo is an author, director, film producer and has made successful documentaries such as From Sulphur to Coal, La Voce del Corpo, and Influx. In 2018 he won the "Sebastiano Gesù" award at the 2018 Taormina Festival with the documentary Ccà Semu. Since 2017, Luca has been the artistic director of the Lampedusa Festival that promotes and supports respect for human rights and the planet.
Ghost Fleet (Dirs. Shannon Service, Jeffrey Waldron, 90’, USA, 2018)
Shannon Service and Jeffrey Waldron’s Ghost Fleet is an eye-opening exploration at modern-day slavery in the Thai fishing industry, which supplies America with much of its seafood. In Southeast Asia, men are lured out of their small towns to sea and kept as slaves on fishing boats, oftentimes for years. In this harrowing film, a team goes to rescue some of those who are enslaved.
Jeffrey Waldron is a documentary cinematographer and director. Ghost Fleet is his feature debut.
Shannon Service is a documentarian. Ghost Fleet is her feature debut.
The Hidden Fountain (Dir. Raquel Chalfi, 100’, Israel, 2019)
Miriam Chalfi rose from being an orphan supporting her family to becoming a barrier-smashing artist. A luminous portrait of the director’s mother, The Hidden Fountain is a labor of love 20 years in the making.
Raquel Chalfi was born in Tel Aviv, where she lives and works.
She has had films featured at the Jerusalem International Film Festival (1983, 2010) and in special Profile Programs at the Oberhausen International Film Festival (2016).
Memphis ‘69 (Dir. Joe LaMattina, 72’, USA, 2019)
In the vain of classics like Monterey Pop and Woodstock comes Memphis ’69. During the sweltering summer of 1969, some of the greatest blues legends gathered together for the Memphis Country Blues Festival that also happened to coincide with Memphis’ sesquicentennial. With newly-found footage of the event, Memphis ’69 is an immersive film that gives us the valuable chance to experience the music of artists who are long gone.
Joe LaMattina is a film and TV director and editor best known for his work on Last Call with Carson .
Midnight Family (Dir. Luke Lorentzen, 81’, Mexico, 2019)
The Ochoa family runs a private ambulance service in a wealthy Mexico City neighborhood to combat the desperate lack of government-provided vehicles. As the Ochoas work both against the clock and other EMTs trying to beat them to the job, they struggle to make ends meet and give care to those who need it. Winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography, this gorgeously-shot work of cinéma vérité is an intensely personal glimpse inside another country’s failing healthcare system.
Luke Lorentzen is the director of New York Cuts and the short, “Santa Cruz del Isolte”.
One Child Nation (Dirs. Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, 85’, USA/China, 2019)
Nanfu Wang’s Sundance Grand Jury Award-winner, One Child Nation, is an essential piece of investigative documentary filmmaking. After giving birth to her first child, Wang goes back to China to explore the devastating effects of the country’s notorious (and now-repealed) “one-child policy” on multiple generations. In an economical and densely-packed 85 minutes, Wang takes a true deep-dive into her subject, creating a damning document of the human cost of one of the most inhumane governmental policies in modern history.
Nanfu Wang is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker best known as the director of Hooligan Sparrow and I Am Another You.
Jialing Zhang co-directed and edited Complicit. She has produced work that has appeared on Vice, HBO, and The New York Times.
Picture Character (Dirs. Martha Shane, Ian Cheney, 80’, USA/Germany/Japan/Argentina/Austria/UK/Scotland, 2019)
People use emojis every day without ever thinking about their significance or how they ended up on their phones. In the illuminating documentary Picture Character, filmmakers Martha Shane and Ian Cheney explore the history, cultural impact, and personal significance of these small “picture characters” largely through the stories of a few people campaigning to introduce specific emojis to the world.
Martha Shane is an Emmy-winning documentarian best known for co-directing After Tiller and producing From This Day Forward.
Ian Cheney is an Emmy-nominated documentarian best known for directing King Corn and The Most Unknown.
Sea of Shadows (Dir. Richard Ladkani, 104’, Austria, 2019)
Winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award and executive-produced by Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio, Sea of Shadows follows a group of activists, investigators, and Mexican navy who fight to save the vaquita, the world’s smallest whale, from extinction. When Mexican cartels and Chinese mob cast nets to catch the totoaba fish (its swim bladder is prized and has been called “the cocaine of the sea”), the vaquita get caught, causing their numbers to drop. This thrilling documentary is an urgent call to action and an immensely exciting work of filmmaking.
Richard Ladkani is the director of The Ivory Game, Gas Monopol, and The Devil’s Miner.
Seadrift (Dir. Tim Tsai, 65’, USA, 2019)
In 1979, a small Texas town called Seadrift ended up in the national news after a white crabber was killed by a Vietnamese man (later acquitted on self-defense) and racial tensions exploded. This disquieting, even-handed documentary exposes a story long forgotten through extensive interviews with Seadrift’s residents as well as archival footage.
Tim Tsai is a documentary filmmaker and editor. He directed the short doc series Austin Revealed: Pioneers from the East and edited Yakona, Seadrift is his feature directorial debut.
Joe LaMattina is a film and TV director and editor best known for his work on Last Call with Carson Daly.
A Tuba to Cuba (Dirs. T.G. Herrington, Danny Clinch, 83’, USA/Cuba, 2018)
Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been a force in New Orleans since 1961, and the founders’ son, Ben Jaffe, still plays in the band. Ben’s father’s dream was to trace the band’s jazz roots back to Cuba, and so, Ben goes to Havana with the band on a journey that’s both invigorating and uplifting.
T.G. Herrington is a producer, editor, and director best known for Free State of Jones (executive producer) and The Mechanic (editor).
Danny Clinch is a Grammy-nominated director best known for I’m in I’m Out and I’m Gone: The Making of Get Up!, Dig It!, and Pearl Jam: Let’s Play Two.
CENTER STAGE COMPETITION
Amare Amaro (Dir. Julien Paolini, 89’, France, 2019)
Hell-bent on burying his dead brother near the rest of his family, Gaetano confronts the laws of his Sicilian village, risking his life to do good by his brother. Led by Syrus Shahidi’s commanding performance, Amare Amaro is a potent, visually striking drama about the strength of familial bonds. Starring Syrus Shahidi, Celeste Casciaro, Tony Sperandeo.
Julien Paolini left Italy at the age of 8 and grew up in Paris suburbs. He adapted the bestseller, I Spit On Your Grave, with Boris Vian Cohèrie and developed the TV series Le Doute.
Arrhythmia (Dir. Gibran Bazan, 90’, Mexico, 2019)
In the stirring Arrythmia, a university professor follows a numerical code in his heartbeat to Sicily. The mysterious journey ends up becoming one full of discovery and self-reflection. Starring Fernando Sarfatti.
Gibran Bazan is a Mexican director, producer, and screenwriter. He is the director of Generación Spielberg, El Buquinista, and Los Rollos Perdidos.
Daughter of the Wolf (Dir. David Hackl, 91’, Canada, 2019)
In this intense actioner, MMA fighter-turned actress Gina Carano stars as a woman whose son is kidnapped by a gang. With a frightening performance by Oscar-winner Richard Dreyfuss as the gang’s leader and some spectacular action sequences, Daughter of the Wolf is a uniquely exciting thriller. Starring Gina Carano, Richard Dreyfuss.
David Hackl is the director of Saw V, Into the Grizzly Maze, and Life on the Line.
Demolition Girl (Dir. Genta Matsugami, 88’, Japan, 2019)
A Japanese high-schooler, Cocoa, fights to break through various challenges in her everyday life in Genta Matsugami’s timely film, Demolition Girl. An empowering tale for our times, this drama packs quite the punch. Starring Aya Kitai, Hiroki Ino, Haruka Imo.
Genta Matsugami was born in Hiroshima in 1981. His film, Sanketsu no umi won Audience Award at the Pia Film Festival in 2005 and went on to be screened at film festivals all over the world. In 2012, he founded a creative production company, 16 bit.inc., mainly producing TV commercials, Video Packages, and Music Videos.
Flatland (Dir. Jenna Bass, 117’, South Africa, 2019)
Here’s something one doesn’t see every day: a South African Western. And yet, here is a South African Western in the form of Jenna Bass’ Flatland. The film follows Natalie, a woman who flees her small town after an accidental murder on her wedding night and connects with her best friend on a long journey to outrun the law. Flatland uses Western tropes cleverly to subvert them and explore how they fit with modern feminism. Starring Faith Baloyi, Nicole Fortuin, Izel Bezuidenhout.
Jenna Bass is the director of such films as High Fantasy and Love the One You Love.
Haiti (Dir. Marco Salom, 45’, Italy, 2018)
Haiti is a country that has suffered immense hardship and is one of the poorest in the world. This film follows the charitable efforts of the Francesca Rava Foundation - NPH Italy, an organization dedicated to helping children around the world, as they assist in Haiti.
Marco Salom has worked with the Foundation on four missions in Haiti. He is also the codirector of Ligabue Campovolo - The 3D Film.
Happy Face (Dir. Alexandre Franchi, 97’, Canada, 2018)
A troubled teen disfigures his own face and joins a support group to reconnect with his estranged mother in Alexandre Franchi’s Happy Face. This weirdly funny semi-autobiographical film is a truly original, subversive reexamination of beauty. Starring David Roche, Cindy Nicholsen, E.R. Ruiz, Dawn Shaw.
Alexandre left a successful banking career in Canada and the Persian Gulf to pursue his passion for film. Franchi’s first feature The Wild Hunt (2009), which he co-wrote, produced and directed, won Best Canadian First Feature at TIFF 2009 and the Slamdance 2010 Audience Award.
La Partita (Dir. Francesco Carnesecchi, 94’, Italy, 2018)
La Partita examines contemporary Italy through a football championship match and a handful of people who have much at stake.
Rousing and incisive, La Partita is an exciting feature debut from Francesco Carnesecchi.
Starring Francesco Pannofino, Alberto Di Stasio, Gabriele Fiore.
Francesco Carnesecchi is a filmmaker best known for his shorts, “Six” and “La Partita”. The latter short formed the basis for his debut feature of the same name.
Ploey – You Will Never Fly Alone (Dir. Árni Ólafur Ásgeirsson, 83’, Iceland, 2018) – Ploey is the story of a plover who fails to migrate to a warmer climate with his family after he has trouble flying. With the help of his friends, the young bird learns to survive. Stunningly animated and charming, Ploey is a delight for the entire family. Starring Jamie Oram, Harriet Perring, Iain Stuart Robertson.
Árni Ólafur Ásgeirsson graduated from the Directing Department of The Polish National Film School in 2001. Since graduation, Árni has worked both in films and commercials in his native country, Iceland, and internationally. Ploey - You Never Fly Alone, is his third feature film, the previous two being Thicker Than Water and Undercurrent/Brim.
Slipaway (Dirs. Julia Butler, Daniel Mentz, 89’, USA, 2017)
A touching story of an unlikely friendship, Julia Butler and Daniel Mentz’s Slipaway charts what happens when a widow invites a down-and-out musician to stay on her sailboat. The two connect in unexpected ways and help each other realize their dreams in this auspicious debut feature. Starring Elaine Partnow, Jesse Pepe.
Julia Butler is an actress and director. Slipaway is her directorial debut.
Daniel Mentz is a filmmaker who is making his directorial debut with Slipaway.
Spare Room (Dir. Jenica Bergere, 97’, USA, 2018)
Spare Room traces the separate yet increasingly intertwined paths of David and Lil, two broken souls trying to overcome their respective hardships. As the two meet, they begin to grow and must learn to forgive themselves before being able to make “room” for others. Spare Room is another promising feature from actress-turned-director Jenica Bergere. Starring Skyler Samuels, Martin Sensmeier.
Jenica Bergere has appeared as memorable characters in over twenty feature films, and as a series regular on numerous shows across several networks. Her feature directorial debut was Come Simi.
Spiral Farm (Dir. Alec Tibaldi, 85’, USA, 2019)
A promising debut for Alec Tibaldi and actress Piper De Palma, Spiral Farm is the coming of age story of Anahita, a teen growing up on a commune outside of Paris. When two outsiders come to the isolated community, the balance is upset. Co-starring Amanda Plummer as Anahita’s mother, Spiral Farm is a stylistically daring film that leaves quite an impact. Starring Piper De Palma, Amanda Plummer, Teo Halm.
Alec was born in Australia and has lived in Rome, New York and Los Angeles. His feature film directorial debut, Spiral Farm, premiered in narrative competition at the Slamdance Film Festival in January 2019.
Stooge (Dir. Madeleine Farley, 75’, UK/France/USA, 2017)
Robert Pargiter is Iggy Pop’s biggest fan, and he’s followed him around the world, with the journey helping him after years of addiction and depression. In the time before Pargiter’s 50th birthday, he tries to meet his idol in this powerful documentary about the power of Rock ‘n’ Roll and redemption.
Madeleine Farley is an award-winning British filmmaker best known for her previous documentaries, Trollywood and Gorilla School.
Suburban Wildlife (Dir. Imogen McCluskey, 90’, Australia, 2019)
An ambitious feature debut for writer/director Imogen McCluskey, Suburban Wildlife is a film about a group of Australian suburbanites who must grapple with the end of their adolescence when one of the group members decides to leave for London. Honest and heartfelt with a handful of strong performances, Suburban Wildlife announces the arrival of a new directorial talent. Starring Maddy McWilliam, Hannah Lehmann, Priscilla Doueihy, Alex King.
Imogen McCluskey is a writer / director based in Sydney, Australia. Imogen’s debut feature film Suburban Wildlife had its World Premiere at the 2019 Cinequest Film Festival in California.
SPOTLIGHT - OUT OF COMPETITION
All is True (Dir. Kenneth Branagh, 101’, UK, 2018)
Written and directed by cinema’s preeminent Shakespearian artist, Sir Kenneth Branagh, All is True takes a thoughtful look at William Shakespeare’s final days in Statford-upon-Avon. As with any of this acclaimed filmmaker’s productions, the cast led by Branagh, Dame Judi Dench, and Sir Ian McKellan is an embarrassment of riches. Starring Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen.
Sir Kenneth Branagh is the director of Henry V (Oscar nominations for Best Director, Actor), Hamlet (Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay), Murder on the Orient Express.
Astronaut (Dir. Shelagh McLeod, 97’, Canada, 2019)
Angus, a lonely, elderly man, has always dreamed of going to space but has never been able to achieve his goal. However, a competition is announced, and the prize is a trip to space. Angus enters and must face various obstacles that stand in the way of his dreams. Featuring an understated performance from Oscarwinner Richard Dreyfuss, Astronaut is a charming film about never giving up and the power of dreaming big. Starring Richard Dreyfuss.
Shelagh McLeod is an accomplished actress. Astronaut is her feature directorial debut.
Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (Dir. Pamela B. Green, 103’, USA, 2018)
In 1894, a woman named Alice Guy-Blanché began to work in the nascent film industry. After making over 1000 films and having huge success, Guy-Blanché’s work and name were completely forgotten. In an effort to resurrect this filmmaker’s legacy, Pamela B. Green becomes a detective of sorts, mining her subject’s work and interviews as well as interviews with other directors to create a portrait of an artist who deserves to be remembered. Narrated by two-time Oscar-winner Jodie Foster.
Pamela B. Green is the founder of PIC, an entertainment and motion design boutique. Be Natural is her feature directorial debut.
The Best of Enemies (Dir. Robin Bissell, 133’, USA, 2019) – The Best of Enemies marks the directorial debut of veteran producer Robin Bissell and tells the true story of a Civil Rights activist and a KKK leader who find common ground during a public debate on school integration in 1970s America. With powerful performances by Oscar-nominee Taraji P. Henson and Oscarwinner Sam Rockwell, this drama surprises and moves in equal measure. Starring Taraji P.
Henson, Sam Rockwell.
Robin Bissell is the executive producer of The Hunger Games Trilogy and Seabiscuit. The Best of Enemies is his directorial debut.
Diane (Dir. Kent Jones, 96’, USA, 2018)
The fiction feature debut of acclaimed filmmaker/journalist/programmer Kent Jones, Diane is a confident and tough film about a woman (Mary Kay Place in a shattering performance) who tries to help those around her while struggling with her own demons. Raw and emotional and supported by excellent performances from veterans Andrea Martin, Deirdre O’Connell, and Estelle Parsons, Diane is a drama that lingers in the memory. Starring Mary Kay Place, Andrea Martin, Deirdre O’Connell.
Kent Jones is a film critic and the director of the New York Film Festival. He is best known for directing Hitchcock/Truffaut and A Letter to Elia (with Martin Scorsese). Diane is his first narrative feature directorial effort.
A Rose in Winter (Dir. Joshua Sinclair, 135’, UK, 2019)
Shot by three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, Joshua Sinclair’s A Rose in Winter is a passionate and emotional story about a journalist, Michael Praeger, who is tasked with writing a story on Edith Stein, a woman who was beatified by the Pope. Praeger discovers Stein was a Jewish-born Carmelite nun who was murdered in a Nazi gas chamber. As Praeger digs deeper, he uncovers more fascinating details about this woman’s journey to sainthood. Starring Zana Marjanovic, Christian Cooke.
Joshua Sinclair is a filmmaker known for his work on Jump!, Judgement in Berlin, and The Golden Lady.
Tolkien (Dir. Dome Karukoski, 112’, USA, 2019)
J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the most beloved authors around the world due to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but few know any more about Tolkien than his name. In this revealing biopic, director Dome Karukoski (in his Englishlanguage debut) explores the author’s early days and his inspirations for the novels that would define his legacy. Nicholas Hoult stars in the title role with Lily Collins co-starring. Starring Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins.
Dome Karukoski is best known for directing Tom of Finland, The Grump, and Heart of a Lion.
Tutto Liscio! (Dir. Igor Maltagliati, 100’, Italy, 2018)
Brando Brown wants to keep the family band, Tutto Liscio, alive, as it was created by his grandfather. However, challenges arise that get in the way, and Brando must work to save the band. Inspiring and heartfelt, Tutto Liscio! is a lovely film that will charm your senses. Starring Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Piero Maggiò, Ivano Marescotti.
Igor Maltagliati is the director of such films as La Banalità del Crimine, The Innocent Bastard, and Le Ombre Degli Angeli.
Welcome Home (Dir. George Ratliff, 97’, USA, 2018)
Featuring Aaron Paul, Emily Ratajkowski, Riccardo Scamarcio, Welcome Home is the story of a couple, Bryan and Cassie, who rent a villa in the Italian countryside to reignite their romance. After arriving, Cassie meets a handsome neighbor, Federico, who begins to cause further tension in Bryan and Cassie’s relationship. This intense tale of jealousy and romance plays to the strengths of its excellent cast while providing sharp commentary on our technology-dependent world. Starring Aaron Paul, Emily Ratajkowski, Riccardo Scamarcio.
George Ratliff is best known for directing Joshua, Hell House, and Plutonium Circus.
L’Appel du Sang (Dir. Louis Mercanton, 75’, France, 1919)
The first film ever set in Taormina, this 1919 romance celebrates its 100 th anniversary at the 2019 Taormina Film Festival.
Functioning both as a time capsule and as a wonderful piece of filmmaking, this showcase of a Taormina from a time gone by is a special piece of work that stars many local actors. Starring Charles Le Bargy, Ivor Novello, Phyllis Neilson-Terry.
Louis Mercanton (1879-1932) was a director best known for Oh! Ce Baiser!, Vénus, and Vendetta.
Dolce Fine Giornata (Dir. Jacek Borcuch, 92’, Poland, 2019)
Winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award and starring internationally acclaimed actresses Krystyna Janda and Kasia Smutniak, Dolce Fine Giornata tells the story of a Nobel Prize-winning poet who unintentionally involves herself in the raging debate on immigration and terrorism. Intelligent and timely, Dolce Fine Giornata is thrilling adult drama at its finest. Starring Krystyna Janda, Kasia Smutniak.
Director Jacek Borcuch is best known for his films All That I Love, Lasting, and Tulips.
Il Gigante pidocchio (Dir. Paolo Santangelo, 80’, Italy, 2018)
I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians (Dir. Radu Jude, 140’, Romania, 2018)
In the present day, a theatre director decides to stage a reenactment of a 1941 massacre of tens of thousands of Jews despite pressure on all sides to stop. Ambitious and darkly funny with a dynamite lead performance by Ioana Iacob, master filmmaker Radu Jude has once again stared difficult subject matter in the eye and ripped it open. Starring Ioana Iacob, Alex Bogdan, Alexandru Dabija.
Radu Jude is an award-winning director best known for Aferim!, Scarred Hearts, and Everybody in Our Family.
Private Screening - (Dir. Ninni Bruschetta, Francesco Calogero, Donald Ranvaud, 92’, Italy, 1988)
Set during the 1988 Taormina Film Festival, Private Screening focuses on two stories: one is about waiters working around the film industry who must deal with an art director on the brink of a breakdown, and the other is about a film producer whose mysterious death causes two actresses intense anxiety. Private Screening is a fantastic celebration of one of our festival’s previous editions. Starring Jessica Forde, Patrick Bauchau, Ninni Bruschetta.
Ninni Bruschetta (aka Antonio Bruschetta) is best known as an actor from such films as Prima del Tramonto, La Gentilezza del Tocco, and A Judge of Honor.
Francesco Calogero is a filmmaker best known for Seconda Primavera, La Gentilezza del Tocco, and Nessuno.
Donald Ranvaud (1953-2016) was a producer best known for Central Station, City of God, and The Constant Gardener.
The Traitor (Dir. Marco Bellocchio, 145’, Italy, 2019)
Tomasso Buscetta, a member of the Cosa Nostra, watches a Mafia war from far away in Brazil. When he is arrested and extradited to Italy, he realizes that in order to survive, he must become an informant. As masterful and gripping a film as any Bellocchio has crafted, The Traitor is another late-career triumph. Starring Pierfrancesco Favino, Fausto Russo Alesi, Maria Fernanda Candido, Fabrizio Ferracane.
Marco Bellocchio is a prolific and beloved filmmaker best known for Fists in the Pocket, The Conviction, and Vincere, among many others.
Revealing Ukraine (Dir. Igor Lopatonok, 92’, USA, 2019)
Executive-produced by Oscarwinner Oliver Stone, this documentary is a penetrating plunge into the tumultuous world of Ukrainian politics. Consisting of interviews by Stone with Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk, this film is an insider’s view of a divided country’s politics that shows what the mainstream media doesn’t.
Igor Lopatonok is best known for his restoration of Soviet classics and as producer of films such as Land of Oblivion and Will of Victory.