'Long Night' at Taormina fest

Political drama takes top prize; 'Recipe,' 'Beat' win awards

A Syrian political drama that looks at the country's changing treatment of dissidents has won the Golden Tauro award of the 55th Taormina Film Fest in Sicily's main competition, Mediterranea. The jury composed of Laurent Cantet, Ari Folman and Aimee Mullins chose Hatem Ali's "The Long Night" for "its elegant and cinematic way to tell a story that deals with moral and political issues," also lauding its ensemble cast.

The Special Jury Prize went to "Fawzeya's Secret Recipe" by Egyptian director Magdi Ahmed Ali. Emile Dequenne won best actress for her performance in Andre Techine's "The Girl on the Train" and Nour-Eddine Lakhmari won best director for his look at Casablanca's seedy underbelly in "Casanegra."

In the Beyond the Mediterranean competition, the Audience Award was won by American producer-director Gustav Reininger's "Corso: The Last Beat," a portrait of the last of the living Beats, Gregory Corso, before he passed away.

This year's initiative to spread out the festival to three other Sicilian cities, with programs that went beyond the main fest's selections, was a quiet success, with audience turnout increasing steadily throughout the week. However, festival director Deborah Young hopes to expand to still other cities next year, and "to do a lot more advertising in the ones we already have."

Young, who is also chief international film critic for The Hollywood Reporter, also said the market, called Spazio Taormina, greatly improved over 2008. "We saw higher-level executives and illustrious repeats such as (EFM director) Beki Probst," she said. The nearly 20 companies in attendance included Roissy Films (France), Bavaria Film (Germany), Rosebud (Greece) and the Weinstein Co.

Taormina Arte Awards for lifetime achievement went to a series of grand dames of world cinema: Catherine Deneuve, Fanny Ardant, Jessica Lange and Dominique Sanda.

The fest ran June 13-20 and opened with the world premiere of Sandra Bullock comedy "The Proposal," which screened to an audience of thousands in the Teatro Antico, Taormina's majestic Greco-Roman amphitheater.

The closing-night film was "Revolution Revisited," Hugh Hudson's director's cut of his 1985 movie "Revolution."
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