Mediterranean vibe at Taormina


TAORMINA, Sicily -- The lineup at the 53rd annual Taormina Film Festival on Tuesday had a strong Mediterranean feel, with two screenings from the Mediterranean sidebar competition and a series of others tied to the region, including the latest in a special homage to mark the 100th anniversary of Egypt's film industry.

But the night's main feature -- "Maldeamores" (Lovesickness), from Carlitos Ruiz Ruiz and Mariem Perez Riera -- comes from the Caribbean. The Puerto Rican film, which explores the term "love" in a trio of unusual circumstances, screened late Tuesday in Taormina's signature venue, the spectacular 2,300-year-old Greek Theater.

Most of the rest of the day's schedule, though, gave evidence of the Taormina event's desire to recast itself as a Mediterranean festival that will highlight the cultural differences between countries in the region.

Among the day's major offerings was "Sahr Al-Layale" (Sleepless Nights) from Hani Khalifa, which details a series of romantic and sexual problems in a group of residents of Cairo and Alexandria in 2003. The screening is part of the festival's tribute to Egypt -- which includes screenings of the seven most recent films on a list of the 100 best Egyptian films of the last century. The film was well received by a small crowd in one of the festival's secondary venues.

Other films from the region screening Tuesday included a quartet of shorts, the Oscar-nominated feature film "L'Uomo delle Stelle" (Starmaker) and documentary "Lo Schermo a Tre Punte" (The Three-Cornered Screen) from Oscar-winning Sicilian director Giuseppe Tornatore, the central figure at this year's festival.

The screening of "Lo Schermo a Tre Punte" was a rare big-screen presentation of Tornatore's 12-year-old documentary, which is based on more than 500 snippets from 163 films shot in Sicily.

The international premiere of "Two Women on the Road" from Farida Bourquia and the reprise screening of Jaume Mateu Adrover's "Fuerte Apache" screened in the Mediterranean sidebar competition.