Taormina Film Fest to Honor Pierce Brosnan, Organizer Says Event on Track for 63rd Edition

Pierce Brosnan attends the USC Norris Cancer Center Gala- Getty - H 2016
Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

After a power struggle over who would run the festival, many were left wondering if the historic event may not return.

The fate of the Taormina Film Fest was in flux and doubt this year. After an intense power struggle over who would run the festival, many were left wondering if the historic event, now in its 63rd year, may be at its end.

But new organizer Videobank claims all systems are go, confirming Pierce Brosnan as the first honored guest of the festival.

Out this year is PR maven Tiziana Rocca, who ran the fest for the past five years. She was known for bringing glamor back to the Ancient Greek Theatre of Taormina with flashy award ceremonies and nightly parties. During her reign, the festival was seen as unorganized, but brought a wealth of A-listers, from Richard Gere to Patricia Arquette, to vacation in the tourist hotspot.

In February, it was announced that Felice Laudadio, who ran the fest from 1999 to 2006, would be taking over the reigns of the festival. And live broadcasting company Videobank, which has in previous years overseen TV footage and streaming of the festival, was awarded a contract for management and organization of the festival.

Rocca and her company Agnus Dei have threatened to sue over the awarding of the contract to Videobank, saying that they were unfairly excluded from the pitching competition. Videobank fought back, saying any rumors of unfair dealings were merely the work of newspapers. 

But the festival, which is estimated to have a budget of $1 million, has since seen further infighting with some onlookers wondering if this year's event would happen at all. Laudadio and his staff resigned on Friday, citing his inability under the new circumstances to deliver a festival that would live up to its honored name and tradition.

Maria Guardia Pappalardo, managing director of Videobank, responded that the festival will go on as planned without Laudadio. She released a statement saying that the organizing committee is working hard “to give the town of Taormina and its audience the festival it deserves.”

Leaked plans show that Videobank was planning on celebrating Sicily as a film backdrop, complete with a satellite connection showcase between its seven sites: Etna, Messina, Palermo, Erice, Piazza Armerina, the Valley of the Temples, and Lampedusa. The latter is said to be the focus of a special tribute evening dedicated to Gianfranco Rosi’s Oscar-nominated documentary Fire at Sea.

Brosnan will present the documentary Poisoning Paradise, which was produced and directed by his wife, Keely Shaye. The film reveals the recent struggle of the residents of Hawaiian island Kauai with the negative impact of biotech companies on their land.

With just under three months until showtime, Videobank is now working overtime to line up guests for the June event.