This article originally appeared in
June 22, 2007
'Transformers' steels spotlight at
Taormina

By ERIC J. LYMAN


TAORMINA, Sicily -- DreamWorks/Paramount's "Transformers," the
mega-budget summer film based on the 1980s animated series, launched
the summer season Thursday at the 53rd annual Taormina Film Festival
with the festival's most enthusiastic response and extra-tight anti-piracy
measures.

The crowds at Taormina's famous
5,000-seat cliffside Greek Theatre
were enthusiastic, gathering more
than two hours before the film started
and screaming and clapping as a
specially made short film and laser
light show marked the start of the
evening's events.

"This is an awesome place for a film
like this," said 18-year-old Michael
Formis, on vacation from Winter Park,
Fla. "The setting and the atmosphere
is just unreal."

Although screenings earlier in the
week in South Korea and Australia
and a European premiere in Spain
the night before meant the Taormina
showing was technically an Italian premiere, Paramount made it clear that
Thursday night's screening was the official world launch for the film.

"This is a worldwide film, and with its dates and its reputation, Taormina
was a perfect springboard for us," producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura said.


Lucia Puenzo, the Argentinean director of "XXY" -- the provocative story of a
teenage hermaphrodite that premiered here Wednesday -- officially
welcomed director Michael Bay and the "Transformers" cast to a packed
house at the 2,300-year-old venue, presenting Bay with a Harry Winston
watch as the recipient of a Taormina Arte Award.

At a question-and-answer session earlier in the day, Taormina artistic
director Deborah Young said the onstage juxtaposition of the directors of a
blockbuster like "Transformers" and an art house film like "XXY" was a good
metaphor for the 53-year-old Taormina event.

"This festival is all about bringing different cultures and perspectives
together," Young said. "You couldn't ask for a better example than that."

For the briefing, Paramount decked out a large conference room at the
Grand Hotel Timeo to fit the futuristic feel of the film, with director Bay, di
Bonaventura and the film's star, Shia LaBeouf, on hand for a lighthearted
exchange with a standing-room-only crowd of journalists.

LaBeouf stole the show with his enthusiasm. "No doubt, this film is a really
big deal back where I come from," the 21-year-old said, shaking his head.

"Shia, it's a big deal all over the world," Bay corrected him.

"Well, I haven't been anywhere before this," LaBeouf said, laughing. "I don't
know what's going on all over the world."

Paramount took extra steps to prevent pirating of the film, with tight security
at the gates of the Greek Theatre and proctors roaming the seats to prevent
illegal filming of the event.

Although the "Transformers" premiere dominated the day at the festival,
several other films had their moment on one of Taormina's silver screens,
including screenings of Aleksei Mizgiryov's Russian crime drama "Kremen"
(Hard-Hearted); "13m2," a thriller from France's Barthelemy Grossman; and
1999 coming-of-age story "El Medina" (The City), the last film in the Egyptian
tribute series. "XXY" also unspooled in a reprise screening.
(c) 2007 The Hollywood Reporter
All rights reserved.
Volume 77; Number 9
Volume 77; Number 9