Rome’s Marco Müller tells Michael Rosser about the 2013 programme’s mix of challenging cinema alongside red-carpet crowdpleasers.

After a turbulent first edition, Rome Film Festival director Marco Müller is back for a second term. The festival veteran of Rotterdam, Locarno and Venice has once again faced political turmoil due to a shake-up at Rome city hall and infighting between festival stakeholders over the summer.

“I had seven months to prepare my first edition. This year we had less,” says Müller, who started preparing the line-up for this year’s edition in mid-June.

Despite the battles - between those who want the festival (which runs Nov 8-17) to take on heavyweights such as Berlin and Cannes and those who want Rome to return to its crowdpleasing roots - Müller has delivered another impressive line-up.

While not looking to match the 59 world premieres he delivered in his first year, there will be 12 world premieres among the 18 competition titles.

“I am happy that it’s a line-up that is contradictory,” says Müller. “Mainstream films will sit alongside the most unorthodox artistic endeavours. I needed to cherrypick crossover films that can appeal to various groups of viewers. That way, I can capture new viewers and get them interested in films in the other half of the festival.”

The line-up includes 67 features and a further 30 short or mid-length films from 30 countries. Eye-catching titles in competition include Spike Jonze’s Her, Scott Cooper’s Out Of The Furnace and the world premiere of Takashi Miike’s The Mole Song. The festival will open with Giovanni Veronesi’s comedy The Fifth Wheel and close with Benny Chan’s Hong Kong crime thriller The White Storm.

The CinemaXXI strand, dedicated to new trends in international cinema and introduced last year, will also return “designed to capture what lies beyond the borders of what we call cinema”.

Opening with Vincenzo Marra’s documentary L’Amministratore and closing with Amit Dutta’s The Seventh Walk, it will also include the world premiere of Jonathan Demme’s Fear Of Falling, a drama starring Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory.

Demme, the Oscar-winning director of The Silence Of The Lambs, will also present a masterclass at the festival.

Following criticism that last year’s festival lacked famous faces, Müller promises major star power at this year’s edition.

Each of the first seven days of the festival will include an evening screening of a US film and Müller says: “I am not exaggerating when I say there’s star power twice a night on our red carpet,” although he declines to reveal any names at time of press to maintain an element of surprise.

However, with the festival premiere of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire starring Jennifer Lawrence and Dallas Buyers Club starring Matthew McConaughey, the paparazzi could have some major stars in town.

The festival will also award its first posthumous honour to Russian filmmaker Aleksei Yuryevich German, who died in February aged 74, while Hong Kong film-maker Tsui Hark will receive the Maverick Director Award.

This mix of Hollywood and world cinema is part of Müller’s strategy to “blend premieres, surprises and established names” in a bid to create a “European Toronto”.

“The two models that cannot be surpassed for now are Cannes and Toronto, so all festivals — not just Rome — need to rethink how they work,” he adds.

As for whether he will return for a third year, Müller adds: “Definitely. Whenever I’ve been given a mission, I’ve fulfilled it to the end. I think we’ll finally have political stability in Rome so we can discuss the model of a metropolitan film event that everybody wants for Rome.”

 Rome’s industry events

A total of 24 co-production projects and sections devoted to China, digital and remakes help make up Rome’s International Film Market.

Rome’s key industry initiatives – the informal The Business Street (TBS) screenings market and the New Cinema Network (NCN) co-production market – will run from Nov 13-17.

Organisers are expecting distributors and producers from 45 countries and 700 accredited visitors as well as 24 selected projects, a China Day and a new initiative dedicated to remakes as well as meetings, panel discussions and conferences.

Single venue; digital focus

For its eighth edition, TBS will take place once again in Via Veneto, the street famously featured in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.

But for the first time both TBS and NCN will be held in a single venue, the Hotel Bernini Bristol.

The Terrace will host the buyers and sellers of TBS while meetings concerning the co-production of 24 projects selected by NCN (see below) will take place on the first floor.

Market screenings will be concentrated across the street in the Barberini Cineplex, and the digital Video Library in the Bernini Hotel, again created in collaboration with Rai Trade, will present films from the festival’s Official Selection; the films screened at the market (including market premieres); and the works of filmmakers selected for NCN.

The conferences, meetings, and panel discussions will focus on digital distribution, VOD and the debate around day-and-date release strategies.

They will take place at the Casa del Cinema, one of the principal venues for the activities of TBS and NCN for many years.

China Day

Following last year’s “Spotlight China!”, Rome will again be looking east. China Day will be held to foster trade between Italy and China and to celebrate Asian film and the Asian film industry.

It will open on Nov 16 with the screening of Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon 3D followed by the ceremony of the Maverick Award, presented this year to director Tsui Hark.

It will continue the following day with a series of meetings with Chinese producers and buyers dedicated to co-productions, to investment in Italy and the distribution of Italian cinema on the Asian continent.

The China focus will end with the world premiere gala screening of The White Storm (Sou Duk/Saodu) by Benny Chan on Nov 17 - the closing film of festival.


The market will also present Re-make It!, which organisers call an “opportunity to present compelling stories that can globally communicate with the public around the world, to an audience of producers and buyers”.

The selected films will be presented in a special section of the video library at The Business Street, “High Concept Remake”.

UK, Australia presence up

This year’s The Business Street, coordinated by Massimo Saidel in collaboration with Francesca Palleschi and Markus Duffner, is expecting nearly 200 buyers and 70 world sales representatives from 45 territories.

Organisers said that “while attendance is widely stable, there’s a growth of international buyers”.

This includes “marked increases” from the UK, Australia, Israel, Taiwan, as well as France, Japan, Spain and Germany.

NCN selection

This year’s New Cinema Network includes a roster of 24 projects selected from around the world, screened and chosen by a selection committee composed of Marco Müller, Marie-Pierre Duhamel and Sandra Hebron with the team of NCN, coordinated by Alexia De Vito.

For the fourth year, the NCN will award the $40,000 (€30,000) Eurimages Co-Production Development Award to one of the attending projects. The selction includes:

  • My Life As An Actor, from Flemish director Eric de Kuyper;

  • The Substance, from Spanish director Lluìs Galter, who presented Caracremada at the 2011 Venice Film Festival in the Orizzonti section;

  • Saint Nicholas, by Greek-French director Loukianos Moshonas, debuting with his first feature-length film project;

  • Unsettled, from Willem Droste, a German director from the Berlinale Talent Campus;

  • Passing Clouds, from the UK’s Tatiana Korol, selected in collaboration with the London Production & Finance Market;

  • Café Abu Nawas by Samir, the Iraqi-born director at the forefront of the independent Swiss production scene;

  • My Mother by Géraldine Zosso, selected as part of an exclusive partnership with the Cinéfondation - Résidence of the Cannes Film Festival;

  • Solitaire King, by Bassam Jarbawi (Palestine), selected as part of a collaboration with the Sundance Institute;

  • A Reverence for Spiders, by Faiza Ambah and Karim Bensalah (Saudi Arabia), also part of the Sundance collaboration;

  • Little Crusader by Václav Kadrnka (Czech Republic);

  • Out by Gyorgy Kristof (Slovak Republic);

  • Peace to Us in our Dreams by Lithuanian director Sharunas Bartas;

  • Dawn by Laila Pakalnina (Lithuania), winner of Rome’s CinemaXXI Competition last year. Pakalnina is president of this year’s CinemaXXI jury;

  • Shadows in the Frame, from Argentinean director Leandro Listorti, who captured international attention with documentary The Young Dead;

  • Eilon Rabin Doesn’t Believe in Death, the first feature length project from Brazilian director Ricardo Álves, the editor of Avanti Popolo, winner of last year’s CinemaXXI Competition;

  • Voice of Egypt, the new project by award-winning Iranian director Shirin Neshat, whose Women without Men won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2009;

  • Omniyam, the new project by cult Indian director Kamal Swaroop - “a mystical journey into contemporary hell” - whose film Om-Dar-Ba-Dar is considered a milestone of the local Nouvelle Vague;

  • Uomini e Cani, from Italy’s Fabrizio Cattan, director and writer of Maternity Blues, which won 16 awards in Italian and international film festivals;

  • Il Ballo, from Italy’s Simone Gattoni, producer of several documentaries such as S.B. I Knew Him Well whose project is a film adaptation of a novel by Irène Nemirovsky, produced by Marco Bellocchio’s production company;

  • Il Pendolo, from Aureliano Amadei, Italian author and director of 20 Cigarettes (20 Sigarette) which won the Controcampo Italiano section of the Venice Film Festival in 2010;

  • La Moglie di Lot, from contemporary artist and photographer Roberto De Paolis who returns to filmmaking after his short film Alice, presented at the Venice Film Festival in 2011 in the Controcampo Italiano section;

  • Il Vento e La Luce, the directorial debut of Marco Dentici, the veteran Italian set designer with more than 40 years of experience in film and theatre;

  • La Cospirazione delle Colombe, by Marina Spada, based on a novel by Vincenzo Latronico, produced by Francesco Pamphili for Film Kairòs and selected as part of the Words on Screen programme (an international initiative that promotes the Italian publishing and film industries;

  • Stupor Mundi, inspired by the novel “Storia controversa dell’inarrestabile fortuna del vino Aglianico nel mondo” by Gaetano Cappelli, produced by Andrea Stucovitz with the company he co-founded, Partner Media Investment, and also selected by Words on Screen.