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Taormina, Italy Fest Hails Soavi, Rossi Stuart

ROME -- Michele Soavi was given the award for best director for "Arrivederci Amore, Ciao" and up-and-coming actor and director Kim Rossi Stuart was given the prize for best actor in two of the year's top Italian films on the final day of the Taormina Film Festival.

The 52nd edition of the Taormina event -- which ran June 20 through Sunday -- featured a less ambitious and almost exclusively Italian schedule this year after the festival's leading sponsor backed out at the 11th hour, leaving organizers with a 500,000 euro ($630,000) budget shortfall.

There was no dominant film among the festival's 14 major awards, with no film appearing in more than two categories.

The 36-year-old Rossi Stuart -- whose debut directorial effort "Anche Libero Va Bene" won accolades after screening at the recent Festival de Cannes -- was one of the stars of the Taormina event, taking home the Gian Maria Volonte Best Actor award for two acting roles: one from "Anche Libero Va Bene" and the other from Michele Placido's gangster film "Romanzo Criminale" (Crime Novel).

Soavi, best known for his 1994 film "Dellamorte Dellamore," took home his biggest prize yet with the Mario Monicelli award for best director.

Other winners included Marco Bellocchio and Sergio Pelone, who won the Franco Cristaldi award for best producer for "Il Regista di Matrimoni" (The Wedding Director), which Bellocchio directed and that received strong reviews in Cannes. The Anna Magnani award for best actress went to Valeria Golino for her work in "La Guerra di Mario" (Mario's War).

The new TaorminaFilmFest award for the best international short film went to Spanish director Miereia Giro Costa's debut film "Te Quiero Mal," and Marco Turco's "In Un'Altro Paese" (In Another Country) took home the Vittorio de Seta award for best documentary.

Even though the unexpected budget shortfall forced Taormina organizers to withdraw invitations to most foreign participants as a way to save on travel-related expenses, Rossi Stuart said the lack of foreign competition for most awards did not diminish their prestige.

"The best actor award makes me proud because the selection jury is more prestigious than ever and they were obviously impressed by what they saw in some cases," Rossi Stuart said.

Taormina artistic director Felice Laudadio said he was happy with the way the festival survived the pullout of its main sponsor, adding that he was eager to work to assure that the 2007 edition of the festival returns to its former scope.

"Notwithstanding the horrible start we had, we ended up in the black," Laudadio said. "Now, with the interest in the films screened and the attention from foreign critics, we can look to the future with confidence."


Eric J. Lyman writes for The Hollywood Reporter.

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