Taormina fest beefs up slate

Snippets of Scorsese's 'Gangs' also to appear

ROME — Paul McGuigan’s “The Reckoning” starring Paul Bettany and Willem Dafoe and fellow Brit director John McKenzie’s “Quicksands” with Michael Caine and Michael Keaton are among films making their world premieres at the 48th Taormina BNL FilmFest, running July 6-13.

Also chosen for gala showings in the Sicilian seaside town’s 7000-seat Greek amphitheater are Philip Noyce’s Australian aboriginal drama “Rabbit-Proof Fence,” starring Kenneth Branagh; Joel Schumacher’s action-comedy “Bad Company,” with Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock; and Paul and Chris Weitz’s British comedy “About a Boy,” screening to mark a Taormina career award to star Hugh Grant.

Rounding out the Teatro Greco screenings are Rashid Masharawi’s Palestinian drama “Ticket to Jerusalem,” and French helmer Yves Angelo’s musical drama “Sur le bout des doigts,” along with the 20-minute advance footage of Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York,” which premiered in Cannes.

The Scorsese reel will unspool on opening night at Taormina, following presentation of the Italian film critics annual Nastri d’Argento Awards and a special orchestral concert conducted by Ennio Morricone of his film scores for director Sergio Leone, subject of this year’s retrospective.

“Gangs” production and costume designer Dante Ferretti will be on hand to receive a special award. The subject of next year’s retrospective at Taormina, Scorsese will send a video message to the fest to screen prior to the footage.

Taormina premieres include debuting French director Laetitia Colombani’s “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not,” headlining “Amelie” star Audrey Tautou and recently picked up for the U.S. by Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Also bowing are Singapore-Vietnamese co-prod “Song of the Stork,” by Jonathan Foo and Phan Quang Binh Nguyen; Norwegian Trygve Allister Diesen’s “Hold My Heart”; Dutch helmer Ate de Jong’s “Fogbound”; Guillaume Nicloux’s “A Private Affair” from France, starring Thierry Lhermitte; and two political dramas from Ireland: Charles Brady’s “Sunday” and Maeve Murphy’s “Silent Grace.”

“While the theme of war was a constant factor in last year’s selection, many of this year’s films focus on stories of struggle and revolt,” said fest chief Felice Laudadio. “There’s a vein of anger and protest running through much of the lineup.

“Given the large number world premieres, we expect a significant turnout of distributors coming for the first time, a sign that Taormina is starting to become an important annual European industry appointment,” he added.

In addition to bulking up audiences during his four-year stint with Taormina, Laudadio has increased corporate sponsorship, which now covers half the event’s budget.

Along with Grant and Morricone, other Taormina Arte Diamond Awards will go to Isabelle Huppert, following a screening of Werner Schroeter’s “Deux,” in which she stars; to Mike Leigh, presenting “All or Nothing”; and Italian actress Laura Morante, starring in Argentine-French co-prod “Corps perdus,” by Eduardo de Gregorio.

Special closing-day event is the Andy Warhol trilogy “Flesh,” “Trash” and “Heat,” with director Paul Morrissey and star Joe D’Alessandro in attendance.

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