Film Scouts Diaries

2005 Taormina BNL FilmFest Diaries

by Philipp Hoschka

Taormina, June 11, 2005 - On arrival, Sicily is unusually cold and chilly, and Mount Etna is completely hidden in clouds. The cool weather does not stop Sicilians getting in heated debates, however. As usual, some of the baggage gets left in Rome, and one lady screams "stronzo, stronzo" (strong language warning: here is the translation) while wildly banging on the counter of the baggage claim booth until the police is called to calm her down. In the middle of this, a group of chanting Italian football fans escorted by the police from one plane to another nearly go unnoticed.

This made me wonder whether the much-criticized globalization could not also be helpful in eradicating some less desirable regional peculiarities.

During the unplanned wait, I also meet a journalist colleague who works for a Vatican news outlet, but fail to ask him whether the recent change of his pre-ultimate editor-in-chief had any impact on their editorial policy.

Finally, we get into the car to Taormina, and it is time for a quick glance through the program. Cinema lessons are back this year, which is great - actor Malcolm McDowell ("A Clockwork Orange") and directors Hugh Hudson ("Chariots of fire") and Bob Rafelson ("The postman always rings twice") will take two hours to talk about their lives, their work and the state of cinema in general, just as Michael Douglas, Judy Dench and Peter Weir did last year. This should be fun.

At the open-air welcome reception, I see that one of my fellow journalists has brought an umbrella, something I did not even take along, after having been sun-baked by the heat waves at the last three Taormina festivals I attended. But tonight is certainly different.

The high point of the mercifully short opening ceremony in the evening is a song performed by the two Indian leading actors of the opening film, "Shadows of Time". Singing a-cappella, they present an Indian love song, generating a Bollywood feeling in the antique Greek theatre of Italian Taormina. The movie is another example of a positive globalization effect: The Director is German, and the main actress (Indian) reports that she never worked so hard.

The film itself is a not-too-dramatic melodrame about a couple that meets as child laborers, swears eternal love, gets separated, and never manages to get together again despite a number of very close calls. It includes pleasant cinematography of India, and touches upon themes such as child slavery, prostitution and the caste system in Hollywood style, that is, without getting its hands too dirty. The resulting film, while touching at times, cannot escape a certain Soap-opera feel.

Damp and a little cold, I walk out of the Greek theatre, and down Taormina's main drag, the Corso Umberto. The saturday night out crowd seems to be pretty subdued for weather reasons, so I call it an early night.

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