Taormina makes a play to soccer fans

Screens Italy's World Cup match, followed by footy films

TAORMINA, Italy -- The Taormina Film Festival on Monday bowed to Italy's passion for soccer, temporarily suspending the festival Monday during the Italian side's opening-round World Cup match against Paraguay and screening several films related to the sport.

The threat of rain prevented the game from screening at the festival's famous Teatro Antico venue, but a standing-room-only crowd filled Taormina's main indoor venue to watch the Italian side open its World Cup defense with a 1-1 tie. The festival used the game's intermission to show highlights from some of the soccer-themed films at the festival, and to conduct a short interview with Barry Hilton, the comic star of "Finding Lenny," the South Africa-set film that screened after the match.

"Lenny," Monday's nightcap, tells the lighthearted story of how the main character, amid a period of personal turmoil, uses soccer to pull his life together while also helping settle an unlikely land dispute. About a third of the disheartened crowd of soccer fans stayed to watch the film.

Even aside from the evening's events, Monday carried a soccer theme in Taormina.

The afternoon's program included "Rimet: L'incrdibile storia della Copa del Mondo" (The Rimlet Trophy: The Incredible Story of the World Cup), an Italo-Argentinean documentary that focuses on the 1970 robbery of the World Cup trophy, along with "Kick Off," a drama from Iraqi director Shawkat Amin Korki, which uses soccer as a metaphor for the solidarity of people in the face of war.

Among the day's other highlights was a Master Class with Italian auteur Marco Bellocchio, who got the festival under way Saturday as the first of five recipients of the Taormina Arte award.

Three of the seven films in the main competition lineup, which focuses on the Mediterranean region, also screened Monday: "Rasayel El Bahr" (Messages From the Sea), the story of a young man dealing with the death of his parents from Egyptian director Dawoud Abdel Sayed; director Ivona Juka's "Neke druge price" (Some Other Stories), which links stories from the five countries that make up the former Yugoslavia; and "Chicas," a comedy from French director and noted playwright Yasmina Reza.