Egyptian director Marwan Hamed is in talks to direct a film based on Chicago, the follow up book by Yacoubian Building author Alaa-Al-Aswani with Dar El Shorouck, the book's Egyptian publisher as producing partner.

The director made the announcement from the Taormina Film Festival where he is serving on the Mediterranean competition jury.

Set in Chicago the book tells the story of Egyptian graduate students at the University of Illinois.

'It is more or less about racism, about studying or living in the US, about how (the characters) are with each other and in their relationship with the west,' Hamed told Screendaily.

Hamed said Chicago would be structured with multiple characters like Yacoubian Building but that he expects the book to undergo 'major changes' in the adaptation process. Hamed, Al-Aswani and the publisher are trying to agree on the book's adaptation, Hamed told Screendaily.

The young director is also gearing up to work on a low budget film short film which he will distribute for free on the internet - he calls it a 'quick project inspired from clippings from the crime pages of news papers.' He expects to complete the project in August.

Cameras are set to roll this fall on his next feature Ibrahim Al Abyad - a gangster style Romeo and Juliet tale to be shot in Cairo and produced by The Good News Group.

Hamed's presence in Taormina is not purely casual. Egypt is the guest of honor during the 53rd edition of the Taormina Film Fest, which has a new format under artistic direction of Deborah Young, an American.

The festival this year aims to focus on Mediterranean cinema with a seven-title retrospective of contemporary Egyptian cinema.

Cairo Film Festival Vice President Soheir Abdel Kader, told Screendaily that small festivals' need each other to insure their growth and continuity. 'At small festivals we have a lot of contact with each other, the film makers and the stars and I think these festivals will succeed more and more through their pacts.'

She said the relationship between Taormina and Cairo is just at the beginning. 'The Cairo Festival and Shanghai Film Festival are twin festivals and I am trying to do this with Taormina too,' she said.

This week also marks Egyptian cinema's 100-year anniversary since the first ever screening of a film on June 20, 1907.

The festival, held at the base of Italy's Mt. Etna will wrap Friday the 22nd.