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Taormina Fest Taps Mario Sesti as Artistic Director

Mario Sesti - P 2012
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The 57-year-old Sicily native previously oversaw Rome's "Extra" sidebar.

ROME – Mario Sesti, until now best known as the director of the provocative Extra sidebar at the International Rome Film Festival, has been named the new artistic director of the Taormina Film Festival, organizers said Friday.

The 57-year-old Sesti, who was born near Taormina in Messina, Sicily, is a film director, journalist, and critic. He replaces Deborah Young, International Film Editor for The Hollywood Reporter, at the helm of the 58-year-old festival.

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With his appointment, Sesti becomes the third artistic director to head one of Italy’s major Italian festival for the first time this year, joining Alberto Barbera, who took over as artistic director for the Venice Film Festival in December, and Barbera’s predecessor in Venice, Marco Mueller, who was officially confirmed as the new artistic director in Rome this week.

Sesti inherits a Taormina festival with budget problems, and he takes his post less than six weeks before the scaled back June 23-28 event is scheduled to get underway. Organizers already announced that this year’s festival would take place without financial support from local or regional governments as in the past. When she announced she would step down in February, Young said part of the problem was that the festival’s dramatically reduced budget would not allow for it to maintain the niche it had carved out for itself.

But a month ago, Taormina announced it would appoint public relations specialist Tiziana Rocca as the festival’s producer, in part to help secure private funding for the event. When she was appointed, Rocca promised the event -- which has become an international launching pad for Hollywood blockbusters including Transformers in 2007, Toy Story 3 in 2010 and Kung Fu Panda 2 in 3D last year -- will become a showcase for “glamour and social events.”

The Taormina event is best known for its picturesque Cliffside location and its use of a 2,700-year-old Greek-era amphitheatre for major ceremonies and screenings.