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TAORMINA, Sicily — Jon Kasdan’s coming-of-age comedy The First Time was the main event at the Taormina Film Festival on Monday, following a flurry of activity over the weekend that included a standing-room-only screening of Disney/Pixar’s Brave and Monday’s Master Class hosted by offbeat director Terry Gilliam.
Kasdan, the son of four-time Oscar-nominated director Lawrence Kasdan, brought the film’s two main stars — Brittany Robertson and Dylan O’Brian — with him for Monday’s European premiere for the film, which first screened at the Sundance Film Festival. The film garnered particular attention from the “Campus” student participants at the festival.
Monday’s Teatro Antico screening will be followed Tuesday by Darling Companion, the latest effort from the elder Kasdan. The back-to-back screenings will mark the first time the two Kasdans have had films screen in the same festival.
After the full — and sometimes problematic — opening weekend, The First Time screened to a half-full Teatro Antico audience. But Saturday’s unveiling of Brave screened to a full house, with people sitting in the walkways of the 2,700-year-old, 3,000-seat Teatro Antico.
Also turning heads before the screening of The First Time was Saturday’s well-received premiere of Jannacke Systad Jacobsen’s Norwegian coming-of-age comedy, Fa meg Pa, for faen (Turn Me On, Dammit!); the midnight screening of horror film The Thing from Matthijs van Heijningen, in the Teatro Antico following Brave; Sunday’s Teatro Antico screening of quirky French comedy L’Amour dure trois ans (Love Lasts Three Years); and Monday’s Master Class from Gilliam, titled “The Imagination of Dr. Gilliam,” which featured a discussion about the career of the former Monty Python star.
Despite the successful first weekend, the 58-year-old festival has also had its problems, with a handful of logistical issues, including the screening of Brave starting after a long delay, sparking boos and whistles from the packed crowd that only subsided after pleas for patience from Italian actor-director Michele Placido, in town to participate in a “Campus” event. But the screening was well received. There was also confusion Monday over the starting time of The First Time, with the official schedule reflecting a later time than the actual screening.
The festival, which concludes Thursday, is orchestrating a shift in emphasis from an arthouse festival to one that focuses predominantly on comedies and horror films under the care of first-year artistic director Mario Sesti.
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