New name, cities on tap for Taormina fest

Programs headed for Palermo, Syracuse, Argrigento

ROME -- After 54 years, the Taormina Film Festival is reinventing itself.

The august festival, until now held solely in a picturesque village on a cliff near the northeast corner of Sicily, will reach out to become more of an island-wide event with this year's 55th edition.

Among the changes announced Thursday is a name change. The festival will be henceforth known as the Taormina Film Fest in Sicily. Also announced was the decision to hold screenings and programs in other parts of the island, including the cities of Palermo, Syracuse and Argrigento.

Taormina, with its ancient Greek Theatre, stunning cliffside setting and view of the Mt. Etna volcano, will still be the festival's centerpiece. But, according to artistic director Deborah Young, the festival's new reach is an important change.

"By reaching out to the whole of Sicily, we are relaunching Taormina as a unique event that is sure to attract large audiences," said Young, who also serves as the chief international critic for The Hollywood Reporter. "We have redesigned the event in cooperation with Sicily's new regional government, and thanks to their support the festival is facing one of the most exciting years in its history."

France will be the national guest of honor at this year's festival, following in in the wake of Egypt and Turkey, respectively, in the previous two editions. Among the highlights will be the presentation of the Taormina Arte to French actress Dominique Sanda and a gala ball to be held on the festival's penultimate night.

The festival will run June 13-20.