Film Scouts Diaries

2006 Taormina Film Fest Diaries
Back in Taormina

by Philipp Hoschka

Taormina, June 23, 2006 - Back at the ultimate Mediterranean festival, for the fifth time. This year, there is trouble in Taormina. The festival has lost its main sponsor. That means less money to fly in stars for awards and cinema lessons. As a consequence, the festival has been shortened to six days. Film Scouts will only be covering the last three days.

Arriving in Catania, we are shuttled through the ongoing construction work for what looks like a completely new airport, including walkways and all other amenities of modern airport design. So we will miss the walk across the airfield, which always brought back memories of Mediterranean family vacations in the 1970s.

Taormina itself welcomes us with 40 degrees Celsius of dry heat. A quick change into shorts, T-shirt and Havaiana slippers, and off to the first of what are likely to be many cappuccinos at the café next to the police station.

Then rushing back to the hotel and changing into proper attire for the traditional cocktail reception at Hotel Timeo. The crowd is pretty small and intimate, but that has the advantage that the Prosecco does not run out as quickly as in the years before. Lots of familiar faces.

Tonight's evening screening in the Greek theatre is just the right thing for somebody having spent 21 hours on three different flights to arrive in Taormina – "United 93", the story of one of the planes hijacked on September 11, 2001, and the first "big" movie covering the event (Oliver Stone is currently working on another 9/11 film). United 93 was the only plane that did not reach its intended target (the Capitol) because the plane's passengers overwhelmed the hijackers, and the plane crashed before reaching Washington.

The movie's strongest scenes are played by many of the actual people involved, and show what was happening in different air traffic control rooms during the tragedy. The situation starts out as a calmly handled routine operation that is not taken too seriously. This changes quickly, however, when the first plane disappears from the radar screen over Manhattan and at the same time, CNN reports that "a small aircraft" has hit the World Trade Center.

Watching "United 93", you have to remind yourself at times that this is not a summer-season disaster movie from the likes of Wolfgang Peterson. Still, in the movie's final scenes, you cannot help but hope that the passengers of United 93 will manage to implement their original plan: have an amateur pilot safely land the plane.

Unfortunately, that's where the Hollywood parallel ends.

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