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‘Krisha’ By U.S. Director Trey Edward Shults Tops Italy’s Taormina Film Festival

Sicilian fest forges stronger ties with U.S studios and indies

'Krisha' U.S. Director Trey Edward Shults
Courtesy Taormina Film Festival

Krisha” by U.S. first-time director Trey Edward Shults won the top nod at Italy’s Taormina Film Festival, which wrapped on a positive note Saturday, having hosted a robust contingent of Hollywood and Italo A-listers along with more movies, which helped boost attendance for the scenic event held under Sicily’s active Mt. Etna volcano.

“Krisha,” a drama about a sixtysomething alcoholic attempting to reconnect with her family over a turbulent Thanksgiving weekend, previously won the grand jury award for narrative features at SXSW.

At Taormina, pic was part of a selection of U.S. indie titles picked by Variety critics in tandem with fest organizers. “Krisha” won the fest’s reintroduced international competition, judged by young Italian film buffs.

Taormina’s innovative World Wide Web Series section nod went to the crowdfunded “Vegan Chronicles,” an ironic take on being vegan conceived and co-directed by Italy’s Andrea Morabito and Claudio Colica.

Susan Sarandon (pictured), Richard Gere, Patricia Arquette, Rosario Dawson and James Marden are among Hollywood stars who made the trek to receive tributes at Taormina in various capacities. Warner Bros. president of worldwide marketing and international distribution Sue Kroll was also feted with a Taormina Arte Award.

Italian marketing guru Tiziana Rocca, now in her fourth year as the fest’s general manager, has stepped up efforts to woo Hollywood studios back to Taormina’s 8,000-seat open-air ancient Greek Theatre, where more than 18,000 people attended nightly screenings between June 13-20.

Fest’s 61st edition opened with Disney/Pixar’s 3D “Inside Out” playing in the spectacular arena on June 13, ahead of its June 19 release in U.S.

Universal’s 3D “Jurassic World” screened June 11 in the Greek theater as a pre-opening event.

Taormina has turned into a mix of film fest and charity galas, with a strong glam humanitarian aspect which this year included an event for the U.N.’s Fashion for Development charity, hosted by Vogue Italy editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani.

But compared with last year the movie side has been beefed up with a stronger and heftier selection.

“The audience response to our reintroducing the competition went beyond our wildest expectations,” enthused Rocca. “This year the real winner — and we can say this without a doubt — is the programming,” she added.