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H I S T O R Y   OF   F E S T I V A L



Taormina: gaze runs from the inviting sea to the Etna impressive, as on a natural big screen in Cinemascope. The link between Taormina and the cinema is innate. In the late Nineteenth and the Twentieth century, almost coinciding with the invention of the Lumière brothers, Taormina became his adopted homeland of baron Wilhelm von Gloeden, who has left a fascinating visual legacy photographs and postcards depicting young sicilians dressed up as the gods of Olympus (a place proverbial for the Tenth Muse) with the background scenery shining: her studio was visited by, among others, from Oscar Wilde, Gabriele D'annunzio, Eleonora Duse. And thanks to his images an illustrious line of personalities he wanted to see a live view of the “Pearl of the Ionian sea, helping to create a legend that continues, by the emperor of Germany, Wilhelm II, to David H. Lawrence, from Tennessee Williams to Greta Garbo, the “Divine”, the first star of the cinema world to love and visit often - incognito - Taormina.
In 1955 in Messina is born, a film series and quickly Taormina became the seat of the fundamental and ideal - with the complicity of the unique scenery of the Ancient Theatre, for directors, actors, producers, and distributors that can find an important point of the meeting. Years ago, on the Croisette in Cannes, Peter Fonda and Terence Stamp mindful of have well-known just during the Festival month of 1965. Peter Fonda and loved basking in the sun, playing guitar on the beach a few steps from the Isola Bella: it was arrived to meet Federico Fellini and discuss your project, what two years later would have been the episode, “Toby Dammit” in “Three steps in delirium”. The role touched him, instead of Terence Stamp, who became a great friend of Peter Fonda, thanks to that summer in taormina: the two ripromisero to work together and they did, 34 years later, in The film “The Limey” by Steven Soderbergh. Another famous promise, then maintained, was that of Woody Allen. Invited out of competition at the Taormina film Festival of 1971 with “The dictator of the free State of Bananas”, the then-unknown Woody Allen was remained overwhelmed by the beauty of the Ancient Theatre and committed to want it as set, “cheating” on his beloved Manhattan. What that punctually happened, more than twenty years later, with “The love goddess” (played by Mira Sorvino, following her guest in Taormina): a privilege, the more unique than rare, to have the Old Theatre as the perfect setting for the Seventh Art in which to shoot the sequences of the Greek chorus led in the film by F. Murray Abraham. Nor must it be forgotten Roberto Benigni triggered "animator" - Oscar, for the sympathy - in ’79 an edition of “minor” of the Festival, who then wanted to return to Taormina with Walter Matthau for the filming of “Little devil” and again, in the hinterland, to build a “Johnny Toothpick”. There are also those who took the reverse path: Michelangelo Antonioni gave scenarios of taormina, the San Domenico Hotel, the bay of Naxos in the background, the conclusion of one of his masterpieces, “The adventure”, filmed in 1959, also in between the Aeolian islands, Messina, and well Known. By then Antonioni praised always his bond with Sicily and Taormina in particular, attending assiduously at the Festival, welcomed with warmth and admiration, every time, with particular enthusiasm in ’91 when Bernardo Bertolucci delivered between the ovations, a “Cariddi d'oro” special. A love that Antonioni consecrated well as later presenting in the Ancient Theatre, a preview of the short film “Sicilia”. Also Carlo Verdone, award-winning in the Ancient Theatre, with the silver Ribbons, he wanted to turn to Taormina in 2007, an episode of his “Great, grosso e... Verdone”. But even a star of the calibre of Robert De Niro while he was the guest of honor at Taormina, in 2010, accepted the proposal of the director Giovanni Veronesi attend ' Manual of love 3” next to Monica Bellucci. The uniqueness of the stage of the Ancient Theatre has done to assist, in the course of time, even at the little “miracles”: how to see in the’80s, Rainer Werner Fassbinder unusually, but pleasantly dressed with an impeccable tuxedo; listen with absolute emotion, in’84, during the “Festival theatre”, the “spiritual testament” of Eduardo De Filippo, in his last public appearance, in front of his son, Luca, in the 90 applaud together on stage, the “5 colonels of the Italian comedy” Monica Vitti, Alberto Sordi, Nino Manfredi, Ugo Tognazzi and Vittorio Gassman; have fun with Pedro Almodovar improvvisatosi in ’94, perfect master of the house of the FilmFest so welcome with a popping kiss colleague John Waters; or again at the stroke of midnight between 2 and 3 July 2000 contemplate the viewers that illuminate the auditorium with lighted candles to wish a happy birthday to Tom Cruise called to pick up a silver Ribbon special; or even to become enthusiastic in the Ancient Theatre, in 2012, transformed metaphorically into the stadium to watch Italy-Germany of the European with Sophia Loren in ready to cheer in the audience.


Perhaps nobody could imagine that the festival of taormina would have done a lot of road. Fashion and culture, worldliness and entertainment, stardom and tourism, social evolution - the sign of cinema - mix in the history of the first 65 years of the Rassegna cinematografica internazionale, launched in Messina in August 1955 by a group of film buffs (including Arturo Arena, then vice-president of the Association of film exhibitors) with seven films - a usher was “green Fire Andrew Marton - projected in one of the most charming places of the city, the "terrace" on the Strait, at the Fair, a local very famous at the time, the Irrera a mare. First and only appearances remarkable, the actresses Irene Genna, the wife of Amedeo Nazzari, and Brunella Bovo. The simple goal was to create a “Festival friendly”, with ambitions and promotions. Already in ’56 the management of the Festival passed - until the Eighties - the provincial tourism Authority peloritani, where the president of the time, Michael Ball, proved to be an impeccable master of the house until 1968, and then delegate the role to Joseph Champion, very attentive to enzymes, youth and cultural, while since 1972 the president the Ept was Eugenio Longo since 1980, Ermanno Jannuzzi. And just in the ’56 were present Gabriella Pallotta and the well known Sandra Milo. From the ’57 a sharp jump of quality, because the projections of messina was flanked Taormina as the venue for the ceremony of the delivery of the awards David di Donatello: first great international presence and Ingrid Bergman, who loved to get filmed by the camera of Federico Fellini, filmandolo. The ceremony of the David became a fixture in the Ancient Theatre, and was repeated until the 1980's, passing the baton to another great recognition of the Italian cinema: the silver ribbon of the national Syndicate of film journalists - until’89, and then steadily since 2000 except for a few short break - still delivered in Taormina. Among the first famous winners of the Ribbons in the Ancient Theatre was Massimo Troisi in 1981. In’87 to receive the Belt, as new director with “The camorra” was Giuseppe Tornatore, deeply moved in to collect a prize so important (it would have reclaimed many more times) in Sicily. And in that same year a Tape to another future Oscar winner Roberto Benigni, awarded as the star of “.”.
For more than ten years the show has continued to divide between Messina and Taormina: from ’64, the event took place for the first half in the capital, to continue and to end in the “Pearl of the Ionian sea”, which finally became the seat almost exclusively. In Messina, in the late Fifties and Sixties projections of summer turned into a “soirée” desirable and desired. Months ahead, we began our hunt to the invitation, the daughters of good family, and dreaming of the dress that they sported for the occasion, the men back in the sixth, the mandatory tuxedo, or were to find it to rent. To all the others, as today in Los Angeles, or Cannes, or in Venice, there was another that hedging behind the fence to watch the entrance of the lucky ones and, above all, of the stars of the big screen.
In Taormina, the twinkling of the stars shone to the evening of the David, a true “night of stars” when thousands of spectators filled the auditorium of the Ancient Theatre were called to light the candles distributed at the entrance: a glance to the chills. In ’58 they were fascinated by, among others, Anna Magnani, and Gina Lollobrigida, Sam Spiegel, and Tennessee Williams, Vittorio De Sica and Vittorio Gassman, with whom in that year he was awarded the Olympus Theatre, the first example of the vocation of the Ancient Theatre to accommodate every form of big show, which would have led, in 1983, with the careful work of the members of the council of experts attached to the Committee, the establishment of “Taormina Art”, with its joints, which include, in addition to the cinema also theatre, music and the visual arts. Year after year, none of the stars of the moment, often fresh of Oscar winners, has given up to attend the “night of the stars”: you could assemble a massive cast of hollywood for a film produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, starring Cary Grant, Susan Hayward, Leslie Caron, Van Heflin, Anthony Quinn, Charlton Heston, Anthony Perkins, Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Linda Christian, Shirley MacLaine, Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, Yul Brynner, Cornel Wilde, John Huston, Cliff Robertson, Rex Harrison, Peter O'toole, Rita Hayworth, Henry Fonda, Burt Lancaster, Peter Ustinov, and many, many others.
Without neglecting european actors like Jean-Louis Trintignant, Melina Mercouri, Catherine Spaak Alain Delon and, of course, the darlings of Italian: Alberto Sordi, several times protagonist in the Ancient Theatre, with the proverbial “call-and-response impromptu with the audience, Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale, Nino Manfredi, Monica Vitti, Ugo Tognazzi, Giulietta Masina, Marcello Mastroianni, Silvana Mangano, Stefania Sandrelli, Walter Chiari and Renato Rascel, Aldo Fabrizi, Antonella Lualdi, Franco Interlenghi, and so on, the directors Mauro Bolognini, Luigi Comencini, Pietro Germi, the producers Carlo Ponti, Dino De Laurentiis and Franco Cristaldi.

G  A  L L E R Y


Almost all the big names of the cinema stopped for a few days, sometimes just to participate in the grand gala. But not always: Marlene Dietrich, for example, in '62 was the exceptional lookout in Taormina when, for a few months and at the limits of legality, a casino was opened, in the villa Mon Repos. The stars, and the innumerable "starlets" around, were often called to cross the Ancient Theater on a walkway - which started from the adjacent Hotel Timeo - along the lower limit of the cavea in the crowd, among hundreds of hands that wanted to touch them : a special slide was built for Marlene, which made her arrive, with great effect, at the center of the stage. The Review had become a corner of the “dolce vita”, with lots of local “paparazzi”, whose prince remains the “small” Michelangelo Vizzini, while Mazzarò's beaches were invaded by foreign beauties, with a bold look and at the time considered unprejudiced. One of the highest points of the divismo of those times was touched when from "Hollywood on the Tiber" Liz Taylor and Richard Burton arrived in Taormina in 1967: on their eccentricities it is still fabled.
So many anecdotes, much emphasis, endless memories on the verge of gossip, but little memory in those early years of the Review of films gradually proposed, crushed as they were by worldliness. Inevitable, so, the "wind of '68" that blew - and not always by reflex - on the destiny of the Review, anticipated by the presence of "committed" authors like Bernardo Bertolucci, accompanied in 1965 by Adriana Asti, and later Joseph Losey , Gillo Pontecorvo, Sergio Leone, Richard Brooks, Francesco Rosi. In Messina the screenings were collected in the "Week of the new film", animated by Sandro Anastasi, which left room for crucial films such as "Antonio das Mortes" by Glauber Rocha, "Easy rider" by Dennis Hopper, "If" by Lindsay Anderson, followed by passionate debates coordinated by the critic Giulio Cesare Castello. It is an opportunity to discover a new cinema and the purely mundane evenings become the subject of protests, until the final cancellation in '71.
Also in Taormina things were destined to change: in 1969 the festival was renamed "Review for international cinematographic cooperation" with the aim of promoting a cinema with cultural depth and social relevance. And in the 1970s the competitive section of the Review was launched, the "Festival of Nations"; Golden Cariddi's first winner "Do you kill horses like that?" by Sydney Pollack. The first artistic director of the competitive Festival was Gian Luigi Rondi, only for that year, however: the following year he was called to direct the Venice Exhibition (and there will be an encore); the direction was thus entrusted to Guglielmo Biraghi, who influenced - reserving the competition, named since 1981 "Taormina International Film Festival", in films first and second films as well as, from 1987 to the new expressive trends of contemporary cinema - in a decisive manner the cultural choices of the Exhibition for almost twenty years, until the end of the Eighties, when he too was called to Venice, while Rondi returned to Taormina for a short period. The history of Taormina is often intertwined with that of Venice: the Sicilian Review is considered in second place, in importance, among the Italian Festivals, immediately after the Exhibition. Three of his artistic directors - Rondi, Biraghi, Laudadio - have directed, at different times, both Festivals. And in the period in which the competition was suspended in Venice it was assumed that Taormina could have become the "Venice of the South", the most important national cinematographic festival, with the added touch of glamor of the coveted live television (broadcast regularly, except for the one of 1966, canceled in extremis among the controversies) of the "night of the stars", conducted by great "veterans" of the television screen as Lello Bersani, Mike Bongiorno and Pippo Baudo. If sometimes that of Taormina risked being considered the "festival of umbrellas", instead, year after year, thanks to the "Festival of Nations", it managed to attract attention to films and important authors such as - in addition to the aforementioned Woody Allen - Steven Spielberg ("Duel"), Alexander Jodorowsky ("The sacred mountain"), Theo Anghelopoulos ("La recita"). The German "new wave" of the "Neuer Deutscher Film" also came, with the first films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Werner Schroeter. And in two "historic" editions - in 1975 with the victory of "Sunday too far away" by Ken Hannan and in 1976 of "Picnic at Hanging Rock" by Peter Weir (who in 1979 will receive the special Charybdis for the tenth anniversary of Festival of Nations) - the then unknown Australian cinematography was revealed, not only in Italy. A bond reiterated by a rich retrospective in the 87 proposal together with the Australian Film Commission. As a prize to the winners of the Festival, it was chosen

Franco Cicero

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