Launching a major new competitive festival in a crowded calendar was never going to be easy. At times it looked like last year's inaugural Rome Film Fest was going to be as notable for its audacious entry to the festival circuit as it would for its programme. In the end Rome was well received by the industry, and in its second year the event is looking to consolidate its strengths as an audience festival with a strong seam of premieres.
This year's programme has 28 world premieres across four sections. Cinema 2007, Rome's competition, offers a wide range of auteur-driven films all competing for the $283,000 (EUR200,000) best film prize - the largest on the festival circuit. World premieres include The Vanishing Point by Laurent de Bartillat; Hafez, an Iranian-Japanese co-production directed by Abolfazl Jalili; and Gu Changwei's And The Spring Comes from China.
The Premiere section, meanwhile, has only one world premiere - Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth - but the section is packed with high-profile titles making their European or international premieres, including Sean Penn's Into The Wild, a tragic story about a young explorer in Alaska, and Gavin Hood's Rendition. Both directors are set to attend the festival.
Other sections include the youth-oriented Alice in the City sidebar which opens with the world premiere of Brad Isaacs' Have Dreams, Will Travel; and the Extra sidebar, which focuses on documentaries. Extra has nine world premieres and a heavy accent on Italian films, including Franco Fracassi and Francesco Trento's Zero - Investigation On 9/11 and Auschwitz 2006 from director Saverio Costanzo.
The festival, budgeted at $16.3m-$17m (EU^R11.5m-EU^R12m), is positioning itself as a major European launch pad. For example, Universal Pictures' Elizabeth: The Golden Age opens Rome's Premiere section, before rolling out around Europe from November (it had its world premiere at Toronto).
"[Rome] was perceived to be well organised and successful last year," says David Kosse, president of Universal Pictures International. "It seemed like a good launch pad, with lots of press attention. We want to support ajor festivals for film launches."
On the industry side, Rome's market event, The Business Street, has grown in its second year with 330 international sellers and buyers expected (see sidebar, below). Deals last year included Spain's Vertigo picking up Todd Haynes' I'm Not There from Celluloid Dreams, and Italy's Lucky Red buying Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park and Jia Zhang-ke's Still Life.
Loic Magneron, general manager of Paris-based sales company Wide Management says: "It's very important to have a place in Europe to do business at this time of year."
There is also the added appeal of Rome's new co-production initiative, the New Cinema Network (October 20-24).
The Italian industry seems largely comfortable with Rome, and several are now doing business both there and in Venice. Italian distributor Valerio De Paolis of BIM Distribuzione says he has found no difficulty having a strong presence at both Venice and Rome. His titles at Venice included the Golden Lion winner Lust, Caution, and at Rome BIM's titles include Youth Without Youth. "Every good opportunity to launch a film well is welcome," he says.
Teresa Cavina, co-director of Cinema 2007, says: "Each festival has its own films and actually we're multiplying the possibility for movies to exist and not subtracting movies from each other. I guess there really isn't any competition at all."
Rome at a Glance
October 18-27, 2007
Opening film: Elizabeth: The Golden Age (dir: Shekhar Kapur)
Closing films: Things We Lost In The Fire (dir: Susanne Bier) and Across The Universe (dir: Julie Taymor)
Cinema 2007: 14 competition titles
Opening film: Le Deuxieme Souffle (dir: Alain Corneau)
Closing films: Juno (dir: Jason Reitman), in competition, and L'Abbuffata (dir: Mimmo Calopresti), out of competition
Popular jury: 50 film-goers (30 from Italy, 20 from the rest of Europe)
Jury president: Danis Tanovic
Official prizes Cinema 2007
Marco Aurelio Award
Best film $283,000
Special jury prize
Imaie acting award: Sophia Loren
PMQ talent agent award: Ed Limato
Cult award for best documentary (non-official prize) $28,000
Alice in the City
Best feature ^K12 $35,000
Best feature Alice young adult $35,000
Paolo Ungari-Unicef literary prize $14,000
World premieres in Rome's major sections
CINEMA 2007 (IN COMPETITION)
The Vanishing Point (Fr)
Dir: Laurent de Bartillat
Int'l sales: Films Distribution, (33) 1 53 10 33 93
Dir: Abolfazl Jalili
Int'l sales: Yuji Sadai, Bitters End, email@example.com
The Right Distance (It)
Dir: Carlo Mazzacurati
Int'l sales: Fandango, (39) 06 977 45011
And The Spring Comes (Li Chun) (China)
Dir: Gu Changwei
Contact: Jojo Qu, (86) 13911 317051
The Private Man (L'Uomo Privato) (It)
Dir: Emidio Greco
Contact: Achab Produzione, firstname.lastname@example.org
CINEMA 2007 (OUT OF COMPETITION)
Dir: Mimmo Calopresti
Int'l sales: Istituto Luce, email@example.com
La Recta Provincia (Chile)
Dir: Raul Ruiz
Int'l sales: TBC
Love Life (Liebesleben) (Ger)
Dir: Maria Schrader
Contact: X-Filme, firstname.lastname@example.org
No Smoking... (special focus India) (Ind)
Dir: Anurag Kashyap
Int'l sales: Eros International, Bhavna.Mistry@erosintl.com
Youth Without Youth
Dir: Francis Ford Coppola
Int'l sales: Pathe International, (44) 20 7462 4427.