By Silvia Bizio
Taormina, Sicily, Italy. Jack Black fell instantly in love with this Mediterranean pearl. As soon as he got to the magnificent ancient town of Taormina, spread on a rock over the sea, whose 57th film festival opened with a 3D screening of “Kung Fu Panda 2”, Black ran to its beach. He jumped on a boat and went snorkeling. Then he dined at a typical "trattoria" right over the shore, eating seafood accompanied by local wine. The day after, Black was the protagonist of the "big" event, wearing a professorial hat with brilliant aplomb: at Il Palazzo del Cinema he taught a Master Class in front of hundreds of film students from different colleges and universities throughout Italy and Europe (some came even from Japan), an horde of film lovers invading Taormina with the passionate enthusiasm of soccer fans.
Jack's lecture on the art of cinema as he knows it, transcended the usual classroom teacher/student dynamic and soon became a genuine get together with the young scholars, more barroom vivacious chat and less academic teaching. Black gave proof his comic improvisational skills entertaining the classroom with a funny and captivating one man show, leaving everybody in stitches. He even picked up an electric guitar and performed an ad hoc rock n' roll concert. It was an overwhelming success for Black. A few days after Professor Black’s Master Class, the Taormina festival’s attendees were still talking about how great it was. And they were still talking about it when Oliver Stone, a living legend in Europe, arrived himself at the festival to present the third (and final) cut of his "Alexander", which was shown the following day at the 2,300 years old Greek Theatre.
"I wanted to come to Taormina even though I missed my beloved son Tommy's fifth birthday," said Black, right before his departure from Sicily. "But I couldn't miss this fantastic opportunity: visiting a magical place squeezed between a mythical sea, cradle of the Mediterranean civilization, and the power of Etna, the volcano soaring right behind this town. It was also an opportunity to promote an animated movie I love very much, both as a movie person and as a father, and finally a chance to play the role of the professor, gamely. Truth is, I have a very instinctual approach to film, I’m not at all an intellectual. Nevertheless, I bet that I love movies more than the finer scholar. And "my" students, so it seemed to me, caught my drift from the get go."
"What's the main advice I gave them in pursuing
a career in the movies? Don’t wait for the material to come to you," says Black. "Try and create your own content, write scripts, short or long, it doesn't matter. Be a creator, even as an actor. Never think of yourself as a marionette, like many directors would like you to be. You have to act, not just react to the pull of the strings in other people's hands."