Deborah Young to Leave Role as Artistic Director at Taormina Film Fest Over Budgetary Dispute

Festival starts search for replacement as Young takes on larger role at The Hollywood Reporter.

ROME – Deborah Young announced Thursday she will be leaving her role as artistic director for the Taormina Film Festival after a five-year tenure.

Young, who doubles as the Chief European Film Critic for The Hollywood Reporter, will take on a larger role with the publication as its International Film Editor.

Young said her departure was due to “incompatible views” with the Taormina Arte Committee, which is the oversight body for the 58-year-old Sicily-based event.

A spokesperson for Taormina Arte said they did not ask Young to leave and said that the problem was agreeing to terms for a new contract with the festival despite a dramatically reduced budget, which the spokesperson said would be nearly a third smaller this year than it was in 2011.

“The festival will continue, but it will not be the same as it was under Deborah Young,” the spokesperson said, adding that an official statement from Taormina Arte would be made in the coming days.

Young agreed that the budget was the central issue: "I appreciate the difficulties Taormina Arte faces, having worked hard with them last year to cut costs without damaging the festival’s image,” Young said. “But I cannot reconcile such an alternative approach with Taromina’s grand heritage and its guiding role as the most important film festival in southern Italy.”

The Taormina Arte spokesperson said the festival was conducting a search to find a replacement artistic director for the festival, whose dates for 2012 have not yet been set. The festival usually takes place in June.

Young’s departure is part of wider changes among Italy’s most high-profile festivals: Venice ousted artistic director Marco Mueller in December, replacing him with National Film Museum head Alberto Barbera, and there is a debate at the International Rome Film Festival about whether to appoint Mueller as artistic director there or to continue with Piera Detassis. If Detassis goes, it will leave auteur Gianni Amelio, who took the reins of the 30-year-old Turin Film festival with its 2009 edition, as the most senior artistic director among the larger festivals in Italy.

In Young’s tenure in Taormina, the festival had several high-profile screenings, including the international premiere of Transformers in 2007 and the world premieres of Toy Story 3 in 2010 and Kung Fu Panda 2 in 3D last year. The festival’s guest list during the past five years has included Michael Bay, Shia LaBeouf, James Franco, Matt Dillon, Giuseppe Tornatore, Ferza Ozpetek, Jessica Lange, Catherine Deneuve, Robert De Niro, Colin Firth, Oliver Stone, Monica Bellucci, Tarak Ben Ammar, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Jack Black.

Young said she will immediately assume her increased role at The Hollywood Reporter.