This article originally appeared in
October 12, 2007
RomaCinemaFest sets sophomore
By ERIC J. LYMAN
ROME --For the first time since the plan to create the RomaCinemaFest was
announced on the Venice Lido in 2005, the event's organizers will have
something to measure themselves against.
As the sophomore edition of the Oct. 18-27 festival progresses,
comparisons will automatically be made to the inaugural effort a year ago.
Are things running more smoothly? Are moviegoers happier? Is the media
paying more attention? Are the films better? Are more stars showing up?
Although the 2006 edition of the festival did not come off problem-free, it was
resoundingly successful for a first-year festival, with several big-name stars
on hand and a number of important films in its lineup -- including the world
premiere of the Giuseppe Tornatore's "La Sconosciuta" ("The Unknown
Woman"), which was recently selected as Italy's official Academy Award
Still, organizers say they have a chance at setting the bar a little higher this
time around. "Last year we had an excellent first-year festival," says festival
co-director Mario Sesti. "I know the expectations are higher now, but I think
we've got an excellent second-year festival in the works here."
If the lineup is any indication, Sesti's boast might very well be right. This
year's event features a rich mix of Hollywood fare and international films,
crowd-pleasers and art house productions. A total of 11 world and a dozen
European premieres will grace the festival's screens, including, notably,
out-of-competition selections "Youth Without Youth," Francis Ford Coppola's
first film in 10 years; Robert Redford's "Lions for Lambs," starring Tom
Cruise as a power-hungry U.S. senator; "Noise," featuring Tim Robbins as a
New York resident driven mad by the city's noise; Sidney Lumet's crime
thriller "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," with a star-studded cast that
includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei; and
Picturehouse's "Silk," from Quebecer director Francois Girard. Keira
Knightley stars in the story of a 19th century silkworm merchant turned
The European premiere of the lavish period costumer "Elizabeth: The
Golden Age" will open the festival Oct. 18, and star Cate Blanchett is
expected to be on hand. Famed operatic tenor Andrea Bocelli will perform
before the screening.
Although the competition lineup consists of just 14 films, the general
consensus is that quality has improved in the internationally focused
program. Highlights include "Barcelona, un mapa" ("Barcelona, a Map"),
from Spain's Ventura Pons; Chinese director Chang Wei Gu's "Li Chun"
("And the Spring Comes"); and "Ce que mes yeux ont vu" ("The Vanishing
Point"), from France's Laurent de Bartillat.
Following a tradition that began in Venice, a surprise in-competition title will
be announced just before the festival gets under way.
"The directors we've chosen for the 2007 festival have a particular kind of
courage in common," festival co-director Giorgio Gosetti said after the lineup
was announced. "They have the courage to make innovative and high-quality
films but to make them with the audience in mind."
Rome is also likely to draw attention with its star wattage on the red -- and in
one case, black -- carpet. In addition to Blanchett, luminaries like Redford,
Cruise, Hoffman, Sean Penn, Halle Berry and William Hurt are expected to
attend. Organizers said they would roll out a special black carpet for horror
film icon Dario Argento, who is back in his hometown to promote the
European premiere of "La Terza Madre" ("Mother of Tears: The Third
Mother"), the final film in the "Three Mothers" trilogy.
In a signal that Rome organizers might be reaching out to other festivals,
Festival de Cannes president Gilles Jacob will be on hand to present a new
segment of "Chacun son cinema," a collective film he directed that praises
Rome as a "city of cinema."
Organizers say that demand for both tickets and press passes are ahead of
last year's levels. Indeed, Rome is doing its part to assert itself in a country
where all film festivals exist in the shadows of the venerable Venice Film
Festival, which celebrated its 75th anniversary this year.
Both fests are riding the wave of cinema's rising popularity in Italy. According
to the cinema monitoring company Cinetel, some 71.4 million tickets were
sold over the first nine months of this year, nearly 10% more than a year
earlier and, notably, 5% more than in 2004, the best year in the last 30.
What's more, Italian cinema's share of the overall market has grown in each
of the last six years.
"I feel good about the health of the cinema industry in Italy," says Roberto
Chicchiero, Cinetel's director. "With a strong fourth quarter, we're on pace to
beat 2004's record of 116 million tickets sold."
Chicchiero speculates that the growing number of festivals in Italy -- Rome
is the most important of nearly a dozen new events to crop up over the past
three years -- is helping bolster interest in filmgoing. "Sometimes a film can
come out of one of these festivals and attract a lot of attention," he says.
"Martin Scorsese's film 'The Departed' premiered at Rome last year and
benefited from the exposure."
While Rome and Venice clashed at several points in 2006, things have been
more tranquil the second time around. There are many who make the
argument now that the existence of two important festivals in Italy will help
"Last year, a lot was made of this conflict between Rome and Venice," says
Rome mayor Walter Veltroni, who had the idea to start the fest. "But people
are growing tired of that. Venice this year had a particularly great edition, and
Rome is set to have a great one as well. With two great festivals coexisting, it
is obvious that they are not a threat to each other."
Co-director Sesti takes it a step further.
"Now, with the existence of Rome, Italy has an important festival over the
three transition months leading into the winter," he says, referring to Venice's
September dates, Rome in October and November's 25th edition of the
Turin Film Festival. "I think that in the eyes of many people, Italy is becoming
the late-in-year destination for films. That can only help all of us."
SILK SCREENING: The RomaCinemaFest will feature the premiere of the Keira
Knightley starrer "Silk."
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Rome Fest dressed up in
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sophomore bar higher
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Rome Fest's love affair with