On the Edge Sweeps Taormina
22.06.2011 - The 57th Taormina Film Festival ended on Saturday, with all of the major awards going to On the Edge, from Moroccan writer -director Leila Kilani. An audacious and visually striking drama about four young female factory workers in Tangier, the film took away the Golden Tauro for best picture in the Mediterranea Competition, the best director award for Kilani and an ensemble acting prize for the lead actresses: Soufia Issami, Mouna Bahmad, Nouzha Akel and Sara Betioui. The jury members said they were “swept away by the emotional impact” of the film, and sought to honor it for “the freshness of its direction and the moving interpretation of its lead performers.”
The jury was made up of French director Patrice Leconte, Egyptian actress Yousra and Iranian-Italian actress Maya Sansa.
The Rabbi’s Cat, an animated feature directed by France’s Joann Sfar and set in Algiers, received a Special Jury Prize. Black Butterflies, a drama about South Africa under apartheid from Dutch director Paula van der Oest, won the Beyond the Mediterranean Audience Award. Iranian director Ahmad Reza Motamedi’s Alzheimer’s received a special mention in Beyond the Mediterranean.
The accolades for On the Edge are significant for ADFF. The film, which received its world premiere at this year’s Festival de Cannes in the Directors’ Fortnight, was financed in part by SANAD, ADFF’s development and post-production fund. The film is the debut narrative feature from Kilani, who is already known for her series of documentaries covering life in Tangier.
Even before On the Edge’s success, the Taormina Film Festival had already shaped up to be a spotlight for Arab cinema. The anuual festival began to redefine itself primarily as a showcase for Mediterranean film four years ago. This year, festival director Deborah Young chose to focus on the films of the Maghreb due to the political and social events that have transformed the region this year. “Taormina is taking place in a moment of great tension for the Mediterranean [region],” said the festival organizers , adding that the region’s filmmakers “have been at the center of dramatic political events.”
Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria were collectively named Guests of Honor, with a number of filmmakers from those nations (as well as Egypt) invited to screen new films and participate in a roundtable called Maghreb Revolution on June 16. The guests so honored included Kilani, Issami, Tunisian filmmakers Mourad Ben Cheikh and Habib Attia, and Tunisian producer and distributor Tarak Ben Ammar, who was also awarded a Taormina Arte Award. Egyptian directors Mohamed Diab and Ibrahim El Batout were invited to take part in the series of events – with the occasion being doubly significant for both of them as their latest features (Diab’s Cairo 678 and El Batout’s Hawi) were also screening as part of the Mediterranea Competition.
The festival also presented a North African Showcase, with special screenings of shorts and features from that region. Included in the showcase, which wasassembled by guest programmer Mario Serenellini, were No More Fear, directed by Cheikh and produced by Attia, and ADFF 2010 juror Nouri Bouzid’s 1986 drama Man of Ashes.
Aside from the attention given to the Maghreb filmmakers, another major Arab director was honored at Taormina: Palestinian auteur Elia Suleiman received the Fondazione Roma Mediterraneo Award for Dialogue Between Cultures. Suleiman was an ADFF juror in 2009 and his films were the subject of a retrospective at ADFF 2010.
Other events at this year’s festival included the Taormina Arte Awards for lifetime achievement, which were given to director Oliver Stone, producer Tarak Ben Ammar and actress and model Monica Bellucci. DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg accepted The Hollywood Reporter Award for Cinematic Excellence on behalf of DreamWorks Animation. DreamWorks’ latest film, Kung Fu Panda 2, screened as part of the festival’s Grande Cinema at the Teatro Antico, with Katzenberg and star Jack Black taking part in the festivities. The Teatro Antico, a 2,300-year-old amphitheatre, is the town’s most cherished Roman ruin; it provides a spectacular setting for outdoor screenings of major, first-run films. Other titles screening there included Stone’s Alexander Revisted: The Final Unrated Cut; Cinema Vérité,starring James Gandolfini, Diane Lane and Tim Robbins; and Season of the Witch, starring Nicolas Cage.