Taormina fest bows ‘Batman,’ does ‘Limbo’

Event starts Saturday, closes June 18

ROME — A mixed bag of titles, ranging from the Italo preem of Warner Bros.’ big-budget “Batman Begins” to U.S. surreal thriller “Limbo,” a first feature made for $9,000 by Nigerian helmer Thomas Ikimi, will unspool at the 51st Taormina BNL Film Festival starting Saturday.

Shot by the New York-based Ikimi in 2½ weeks, “Limbo” will unspool in the Sicilian fest’s new competition for young helmers.

English-language entries in the first-works competish include black comedy “Guy X” by Brit helmer Saul Metzstein (“Late Night Shopping”); U.S. actor-director Caveh Zahedi’s “I Am a Sex Addict”; “Hill 16,” a first work from Ireland’s Dermot Doyle; and Carlo Nero’s “The Fever,” based on a Wallace Shawn play and starring Nero’s mother, Vanessa Redgrave.

Also vying for Taormina prizes are two titles from Italy, Roberto Dordit’s “Apnea” and Gianpaolo Tescari’s “Gli occhi dell’altro”; “Nordkraft” from Denmark’s Ole Christian Madsen; “Bye Bye Blackbird,” a first work from Luxembourg by Robinson Savary; Kazakhstan’s 2005 foreign-language Oscar entry “Shiza,” by Gulshat Omarova; “Ava-je jebreyeel,” a first work from Iran’s Cyrus Ranjbar; and “RH+” by Poland’s Jaroslaw Zamojda.

Most of these works also will be in the running for the BNL Bank’s award for first and second film, worth E25,000 ($30,700).

The seaside fest will open with German/Asian melodrama “Shadows of Time,” helmed by Florian Gallenberger, screening in Taormina’s Greek amphitheater.

“Batman Begins” also will unspool under the stars in the ancient arena, as will two other U.S. pics, David Anspaugh’s soccer tale “The Game of Their Lives” and Brad Mirman’s “The Shadow Dancer” (aka “Shadows in the Sun”). The closer will be Costa-Gavras’ “The Ax.”

Helmer Hugh Hudson will head the Taormina jury, which comprises thesps Malcolm McDowell and Laura Morante, Argentine critic Diego Lerer and former Berlin and Venice topper Moritz de Hadeln, currently in charge of the Montreal New FilmFest.

Taormina will hold the yearly Fipresci international film critics’ federation meet on June 12-13.

Headed by veteran Italo critic and industry operator Felice Laudadio, the previously noncompetitive event on the island of Sicily, under the Mount Etna volcano, closes June 18.

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