Taormina fest lands 'Transformers' premiere


ROME -- When it was announced in May that Paramount would launch its big-budget summer blockbuster "Transformers" at the Taormina Film Fest, it exposed the 53-year-old event to a new generation of movie lovers. Suddenly, Taormina's name appeared in scores of teenagers' "Transformers"-themed blogs in the U.S., Japan and elsewhere. Mainstream newspapers prominently featured the news, and the buzz had begun -- for both the film and the festival.

Mediterranean makeover: Taormina fest a pivotal spot on busy calendar

"It's an enormous coup for us to get such a highly anticipated, big-budget film like this one," Taormina's first-year artistic director Deborah Young says. "I think it illustrates the majors' renewed interest in Taormina as a launching pad for big projects."

Richard Borg, United International Pictures' managing director for Italy, says that Taormina's setting and timing made the decision a simple one. "We were looking at a June release, and so the timing for Taormina was right," Borg says. "And the setting? You couldn't ask for a better setting than the stunning venue in Taormina."

The setting for the June 21 premiere will be Taormina's famous 2,300-year-old, 5,000-seat Greek Theatre, probably Europe's oldest film venue, with one of the continent's largest screens. Director Michael Bay, several members of the "Transformers" cast and some top Paramount brass are set to attend the screening, which Borg promises will be a "quite unique" event.

Young says it is the first time a bug-budget film like "Transformers" will screen in Taormina before it opens in the U.S., where the film is scheduled to be released July 3.

"Transformers" resurrects a franchise that began in 1984 with the original animated TV series of the same name and continued with its spinoff film, 1986's "The Transformers: The Movie." The stories are based on adventures inspired by Takara- and Hasbro-made toys that can transform from machines into menacing-looking robots.

In this latest version, the fate of the Earth is placed in jeopardy during a battle between dueling alien-robot races, the heroic Autobots and the malevolent Decepticons. Both seek a secret map that reveals the Allspark, the source of life. The film counts Steven Spielberg as one of its executive producers and is directed by blockbuster veteran Bay.

"Getting a film like 'Transformers' is like having Christmas in the summer," Young declares. "You can't count on getting a film of this size and importance every year. You can only be ready when it becomes possible."