Taormina fetes 100 years of Egyptian film


TAORMINA, Sicily -- Egypt was in the spotlight Wednesday at the Taormina Film Festival as a gala celebrating the nation's 100th year of filmmaking provided the day's main event.

Egyptian Ambassador Ashraf Rashed was on hand at the majestic Greek Theatre to receive the first AC Nielsen Award for Dialogue Between Cultures. And three Egyptian films screened, including Osama Fawzi's 1960s-set drama "Baheb el Cima" (I Love Cinema), which unspooled at the 2,300-year-old cliffside venue at the conclusion of the gala.

Also screening from Egypt were "Ahla El-Awkat" (The Best of Times), director Hala Khalel's 2004 drama about a family tragedy, and Sherif El-Bendary's short film "Rise and Shine," which played in the Greek Theatre before the gala.

The day's non-Egyptian fare included screenings of Tribeca Film Festival favorite "Making Off, le Dernier Film" (Making Of) from Tunisia's Nouri Bouzid, which unspooled in Taormina's Mediterranean competition, and "XXY," the story of a teenage hermaphrodite from Argentinean director Lucia Puenzo, which screened in the non-Mediterranean foreign film competition.

U.S. actor-director Matt Dillon also was on hand for a screening of his 2002 film "City of Ghosts." In a question-and-answer session after the screening, he announced that he was working on a new script for a nonfiction gangster story set in the era of mob boss John Gotti, who died in 2002. Dillon said the story will be based in part on the experiences of a now-deceased personal friend involved in the scene at that time.

"The project is in the earliest stages right now, but I think work would start on it next year," Dillon told a medium-sized crowd on hand for the session. "It's set during the last days of gangland, when things were really hot. Right now, I'm still just fleshing out characters and relationships."

The Taromina event, which kicked off Sunday, concludes Friday.