The 65th Taormina FilmFest, from June 30 until July 6, is proud to announce that Oscar®-winning actresses Nicole Kidman and Octavia Spencer, who executive produces and stars in Apple’s upcoming Truth Be Told, will be among the talents receiving the prestigious Taormina Arte Award on stage at the Greek Theatre. Executive producer Phillip Noyce, in Taormina to present the world premiere of Show Me What You Got by Svetlana Cvetko, will also receive the award.
In the festival’s 65-year history, Apple’s upcoming drama series Truth Be Told is the first-ever TV series to be celebrated at the Taormina Film Festival. Academy and Golden Globe Award-winner Octavia Spencer, who executive produces and stars in Truth Be Told will be joined by the series’ creator Nichelle Tramble Spellman. Inspired by the true-crime novel by Kathleen Barber, Truth Be Told provides a unique glimpse into America’s obsession with true crime podcasts and challenges its viewers to consider the consequences when the pursuit of justice is placed on a public stage. The series will debut on Apple TV+, the new home for the world’s most creative storytellers featuring exclusive original shows, movies and documentaries, coming to the Apple TV app this fall.
Apple TV+ will also present two films at this year’s Taormina Film Festival, The Elephant Queen and Hala.
Featured in the Greek Theater will be Apple’s The Elephant Queen, directed by Emmy® and Peabody Award-winning wildlife documentarians Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble, scored by Golden Globe-nominated composer Alex Heffes (The Last King of Scotland, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), and narrated by Academy® Award-nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave, Doctor Strange, the upcoming The Lion King). The genre redefining film stars the ultimate leading lady, Athena, an elephant matriarch who will do everything in her power to protect her family when they are forced to leave their watering hole. The Elephant Queen is an epic story of love, loss and coming home is a timely love letter to a species that could be gone from our planet in a generation.
Presented in the Palace of Congress Theater will be Apple’s Hala, a coming-of-age story and official 2019 Sundance Film Festival selection written and directed by Minhal Baig, and executive produced by Jada Pinkett Smith. Hala chronicles a young woman as she struggles to straddle the lines between two cultures.
The festival opens with the film, Ladies in Black, from two-time Oscar®-nominee Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) with Beresford and the film’s cast in attendance. Three-time Oscar®-winning director Oliver Stone will serve as Jury President for narrative films alongside André Aciman (author of Call Me By Your Name), Golden Globe-nominated composer Carlo Siliotto (Under the Same Moon, Instructions Not Included), actress Julia Ormond, editor Elisa Bonora and director Paolo Genovese. Anonymous Content executive producer Bedonna Smith will be part of the documentary jury alongside director Andrea Pallaoro and actress Donatella Finocchiaro.
Special screenings at the Greek Theatre include the Italian premieres of Oscar®-winner Danny Boyle’s Yesterday, starring Himesh Patel and Lily James, and the long-awaited instant-classic Amazing Grace featuring Aretha Franklin in her prime. The world premiere of Martha Coolidge’s I’ll Find You (produced by Oscar®-winner Fred Roos) will also screen at the Greek Theatre as well as Mimmo Calopresti’s Via dall’Aspromonte, produced by Fulvio Lucisano. Taormina is also proud to present the highly anticipated blockbuster Spider-Man: Far From Home as a special event at the Greek Theatre.
Films will be screening either at the historic Greek Theatre or the Palace of Congress. Other narrative selections include the European premieres of Robin Bissell’s The Best of Enemies, starring Oscar®-nominee Taraji P. Henson and Oscar®-winner Sam Rockwell, and Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage’s Them That Follow, starring Oscar®-winner Olivia Colman, as well as the Italian premieres of Kenneth Branagh’s All Is True starring Oscar®-nominee Branagh, Oscar®-winner Judi Dench, and Oscar®-nominee Ian McKellen, Kent Jones’ Diane, starring Mary Kay Place, Dome Karukoski’s Tolkien, and Jacek Borcuch’s Sundance award-winner, Dolce Fine Giornata, starring Krystyna Janda and Kasia Smutniak. Other presentations include Spiral Farm by Alec Tibaldi, featuring Piper De Palma, daughter of Brian De Palma.
This edition also features a strong documentary lineup that includes the European premiere of Martha Shane and Ian Cheney’s Picture Character as well as the Italian premieres of Richard Ladkani’s Sundance award-winner, Sea of Shadows (executive-produced by Oscar®-winner Leonardo DiCaprio), Shannon Service and Jeffrey Waldron’s Ghost Fleet, and John Chester’s The Biggest Little Farm, which will soon be released in Italy. Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winner, One Child Nation, and Lukas Lorentzen’s Sundance award-winner, Midnight Family, will also screen.
Additionally, the festival is delighted to have members of the Ghana Actors’ Guild attend the festival with the new Ghanaian film Azali (dir. Kwabena Gyansah), which will be making its European premiere at Taormina. Panels include discussions on women directors/producers as well as documentarians who risk their lives to film in dangerous situations.
Apple will also make its entrance onto cinema’s world stage at the Taormina FilmFest, previewing content from series such as Truth Be Told with Octavia Spencer, See with Alfre Woodard, and The Morning Show with Jennifer Aniston, Oscar®-winner Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell. Additionally, they will screen two feature films: Hala, directed by Minhal Baig and executive-produced by Jada Pinkett Smith, and The Elephant Queen, directed by Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone.
The festival will present three competitive sections: Documentaries; Features; and the Center Stage competition, to be judged by students of international film schools and the Universities of Messina and Catania. The winners of the Center Stage competition will receive the Paola Ferrari De Benedetti Award (and a cash prize) and the Air Italy award, which includes an airline ticket to Los Angeles offered by Taormina FilmFest’s new partner, Air Italy.
The program will also include a series of Italian and international shorts, as well as a historical section dedicated to screening classic films such L’Appel du Sang and Un Amore Selvaggio with Giovanni Grasso, accompanied by a live piano performance.
Amazing Grace (Realized and Produced by Alan Elliott, USA, 2018, 89’, col)
Born on the Fourth of July (Dir. Oliver Stone, USA, 1989, 145’, col)
The Elephant Queen (Dirs. Mark Deeble, Victoria Stone, Kenya/UK, 2019, 96’, col)
I’ll Find You (Dir. Martha Coolidge, USA, 2019, 115’, col)
Ladies in Black (Dir. Bruce Beresford, Australia, 2018, 109’, col)
Spider-Man: Far From Home (Dir. Jon Watts, USA, 2019, 135’, col - B/W
Aspromonte (Dir. Mimmo Calopresti, Italy, 2019, col)
Yesterday (Dir. Danny Boyle, UK, 2019, 112’, col)
FEATURE FILM COMPETITION
Allahu Akbar (Dir. Farhat Qazi, Pakistan, 2019, 87’, col)
Amare Amaro (Dir. Julien Paolini, France, 2019, 89’, col)
Azali (Dir. Kwabena Gyansah, Ghana-West Africa, 2018, 89’, col)
Ellen: Die storie van Ellen Pakkies (Dir. Daryne Joshua, South Africa, 2018, 123’, col)
Hala (Dir. Minhal Baig, USA, 2019, 94’, col)
Imaginary Order (Dir. Debra Eisenstadt, USA, 2019, 101’, col)
In the Life of Music (Dirs. Caylee So, Visal Sok, USA/Cambodia, 2018, 92’, col)
Nido de Mantis (Dir. Arturo Sotto Díaz, Cuba, 2018, 118’, col)
Picciridda (Dir. Paolo Licata, Italy, 2019, 95’, col)
Show Me What You Got (Dir. Svetlana Cvetko, USA, 2019, 100’, B/W)
A Son of Man (Dir. Jamaicanoproblem, Ecuador, 2018, 91’, col)
The Song of the Tree (Dir. Aibek Daiyrbekov, Kyrgyzstan/Russia, 2018, 93’, col)
Them That Follow (Dirs. Britt Poulson, Dan Madison Savage, USA, 2019, 98’, col)
This Teacher (Dir. Mark Jackson, USA, 2018, 95’, col)
Vai (Dir. Beca Arahanga, et al., Āotearoa New Zealand, 2019, 90’, col)
Aether (Dir. Rûken Tekeş, Turkey, 2019, 82’, col)
The Biggest Little Farm (Dir. John Chester, USA, 2018, 91’, col)
Desolation Center (Dir. Stuart Swezey, USA, 2018, 94’, col)
Ghost Fleet (Dirs. Shannon Service, Jeffrey Waldron, USA, 2018, 90’, col)
The Hidden Fountain (Dir. Raquel Chalfi, Israel, 2017, 100’, col)
Memphis ’69 (Dir. Joe LaMattina, USA, 2019, 72’, col)
Midnight Family (Dir. Luke Lorentzen, Mexico, 2019, 81’, col)
One Child Nation (Dirs. Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, USA/China, 2019, 85’, col)
Picture Character (Dirs. Martha Shane, Ian Cheney, USA/Germany/Japan/Argentina/Austria, 2019, 80’,col)
Sea of Shadows (Dir. Richard Ladkani, Austria, 2019, 104’, col)
Seadrift (Dir. Tim Tsai, USA, 2019, 65’, col)
A Tuba to Cuba (Dirs. T.G. Herrington, Danny Clinch, USA/Cuba, 2018, 83’, col)
CENTER STAGE COMPETITION
Arrythmia (Dir. Gibran Bazan, Mexico, 2019, 90’, col)
Dallas in Prizzi (Dir. Luca Vullo, Italy, 2018, 43’, col)
Daughter of the Wolf (Dir. David Hackl, Canada, 2019, 91’, col)
Demolition Girl (Dir. Genta Matsugami, Japan, 2019, 88’, col)
Flatland (Dir. Jenna Bass, South Africa, 2019, 117’, col)
Haiti (Dir. Marco Salom, Italy, 2018, 45’, col)
Happy Face (Dir. Alexandre Franchi, Canada, 2018, 97’, col)
La Partita (Dir. Francesco Carnesecchi, Italy, 2018, 94’, col)
Ploey - You Will Never Fly Alone (Dir. Árni Ólafur Ásgeirsson, Iceland/Belgium, 2018, 83’, col)
Slipaway (Dir. Julia Butler, Daniel Mentz, USA, 2017, 89’, col)
Spare Room (Dir. Jenica Bergere, USA, 2018, 97’, col)
Spiral Farm (Dir. Alec Tibaldi, USA, 2019, 85’, col)
Suburban Wildlife (Dir. Imogen McCluskey, Australia, 2019, 90’, col)
SPOTLIGHT - OUT OF COMPETITION
All is True (Dir. Kenneth Branagh, UK, 2018, 101’, col)
Astronaut (Dir. Shelagh McLeod, Canada, 2019, 97’, col)
Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (Dir. Pamela B. Green, USA, 2018, 103’, col - B/W)
The Best of Enemies (Dir. Robin Bissell, USA, 2019, 133’, col)
Cruel Peter (Dirs. Christian Bisceglia, Ascanio Malgarini, Italy, 2019, 90’, col)
Diane (Dir. Kent Jones, USA, 2018, 96’, col)
A Rose in Winter (Dir. Joshua Sinclair, UK, 2019, 135’, col)
Tolkien (Dir. Dome Karukoski, USA, 2019, 112’, col)
Tutto Liscio! (Dir. Igor Maltagliati, Italy, 2018, 100’, col)
Welcome Home (Dir. George Ratliff, USA, 2018, 97’, col)
L’Appel du Sang (Dir. Louis Mercanton, France, 1919, 75’, B/W)
Dolce Fine Giornata (Dir. Jacek Borcuch, Poland, 2019, 92’, col)
I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians (Dir. Radu Jude, Romania/Germany/Bulgaria/France/Czech Republic, 2018, 140’, col)
Il Traditore (Dir. Marco Bellocchio, Italy/France/Brazil/Germany, 2019, 145’, col)
Revealing Ukraine (Dir. Igor Lopatonok, USA, 2019, 92’, col)
Visioni Private (Dir. Ninni Bruschetta, Francesco Calogero, Donald Ranvaud, Italy, 1988, 92’, col)