With 59 world premieres, the Rome Film Festival is serving up a feast of new cinema. Lee Marshall profiles a selection of 15 new films from across the line-up

Ali Has Blue Eyes (It)

Dir Claudio Giovannesi


On paper this tough multi-ethnic drama set in the Roman seaside resort and dormitory town of Ostia could be the most export-friendly of the three Italian titles in this year’s Competition. Returning to the ethnic-strife territory and locations of his debut Fratelli D’Italia, Giovannesi’s second feature, which takes its title but not its story from a novel by Pier Paolo Pasolini, centres on four teens, played by local non-professionals, who are involved in this down-at-heel area’s criminal underworld.

Contact Fabrizio Mosca, Acaba Produzioni, info@acabaproduzioni.com

Bullet To The Head (US) [pictured]

Dir Walter Hill

Out of Competition

With the highest commercial profile of the world premieres at Rome (not counting The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, which debuts just a few days before its US release) veteran director Hill’s Sylvester Stallone vehicle is another variant on the buddy dynamic of films like 48 Hrs or Red Heat. Stallone plays a hitman who teams up with an Asian-American cop (Sung Kang) to kill a common enemy. The film has been around for a while; Warner Bros pushed back a scheduled April 2012 US release to February 2013.

Contact IM Global, info@imglobalfilm.com

Celestial Wives Of The Meadow Mari (Rus)

Dir Aleksei Fedorchenko


On many critics’ end-of-year top 10 lists in 2010, when it debuted in Venice, Fedorchenko’s last feature, Silent Souls, went on to be picked up by several European arthouse distributors. Set among the same Mari ethnic group - also known as Volga Finns - his new film consists of 23 short stories about Mari women, each one an independent genre piece between one and 10 minutes long. According to Fedorchenko, several of these stories revolve around sex. He says it is a kind of “Mari Decameron”.

Contact February 29 Film Production Co, www.29f.org

The Gang Of The Jotas (Fr)

Dir Marjane Satrapi

Out of Competition

This wacky, low-budget crime caper promises to be something of a departure for Persepolis director Satrapi, not least because she takes one of the leading roles herself. She plays a woman looking to settle a score with the Spanish mafia, who crosses paths with two French badminton players following a suitcase mix-up. Satrapi meanwhile is preparing her next major release, The Voices.

Contact Eric Schnedecker, Urban Distribution Int, eric@urbandistrib.com

A Glimpse Inside The Mind Of Charles Swan III (US)

Dir Roman Coppola


Son of Francis, brother of Sofia, Roman Coppola has taken more than a decade to make this follow-up to his 2001 debut CQ. Set in the 1970s, A Glimpse… stars Charlie Sheen as an album-cover designer whose world falls apart when his girlfriend dumps him. Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Patricia Arquette provide support. New distributor A24 picked up US theatrical rights in August and plans a February 2013 release.

Contact Independent, mail@independentfilmcompany.com

Hand In Hand (Fr)

Dir Valérie Donzelli


This Wild Bunch title could be one of Rome’s real coups. Donzelli’s cancer-themed comedy-drama-musical Declaration Of War was France’s 2011 Oscar entry and has been garnering kudos on the international arthouse circuit. She continues her collaboration with Jérémie Elkaim in this balletic story of a no-hoper and a high-powered dance teacher at the Paris Opera. Elkaim co-scripted and plays one of the leads alongside Valérie Lemercier. Wild Bunch Distribution plans a French release on December 12.

Contact Carole Baraton, Wild Bunch, cbaraton@wildbunch.eu

Historic Centre (Port)

Dirs Aki Kaurismaki, Pedro Costa, Victor Erice, Manoel de Oliveira


The opening film of the CinemaXXI programme, dedicated to new currents in world cinema, is an omnibus project set in the historic centre of Guimaraes, Portugal, the European Capital of Culture 2012. Kaurismaki centres on a solitary barman; Costa reprises the main character from his Cannes Competition title Colossal Youth; Erice interviews the workers of a defunct textile mill; and de Oliveira gives an ironic view of the tourist invasion of a city that is often considered the cradle of Portuguese nationhood.

Contact Eric Schnedecker, Urban Distribution Int, eric@urbandistrib.com

Ixjana (Pol)

Dirs Jozef Skolimowski, Michal Skolimowski


The story of a writer, his best friend and the mysterious woman from the past who comes between them. Sambor Czarnota, Borys Szyc and Magdalena Boczarska star. The Skolimowskis previously collaborated on The Hollow Men in 1993.

Contact Film Media, biuro@filmmedia.com.pl

Lesson Of Evil (Jap)

Dir Takashi Miike


Prolific Japanese director Miike’s third feature this year is an adaptation of Yusuke Kishi’s bestselling horror-thriller novel Aku No Kyoten. The tale of a popular high-school teacher (played by Ito Hideaki) who is in reality a murderous psychopath, it is said to combine elements of Battle Royale and Confessions - and so could prove more appetising to Japanese genre fans than Miike’s last, the unclassifiable romantic gangland musical, For Love’s Sake.

Contact Toho Co, tohointl@toho.co.jp

Mai Morire (Mex)

Dir Enrique Rivero


Mexican director Rivero’s follow-up to his well-received 2008 arthouse hit and Locarno Golden Leopard winner Parque Via could be one of the Rome Competition’s more appetising titles for cineaste distributors. Returning to the same themes of old age and loneliness, Mai Morire focuses on a woman who is forced to go back to her home town to care for her elderly mother.

Contact Paola Herrera, Una Comunion, info@unacomunion.com

Marfa Girl (US)

Dir Larry Clark


Cinematic bad boy Clark returns with this study of - guess what - disaffected youth in a small US town. Set in Marfa, Texas (where James Dean’s last film, Giant, was shot) and starring mostly non-professionals, the film focuses on local teens caught between the hassles of the border police and the antics of the town’s contemporary-art community. The controversial director of Kids has said he thinks Marfa Girl could be his best film yet; he plans to release it exclusively on his website.

Contact www.larryclark.com

The Motel Life (US)

Dir Gabriel Polsky, Alan Polsky


Producer brothers Gabriel and Alan Polsky (Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans) have assembled a solid cast for their directing debut, based on Willy Vlautin’s novel of the same name. Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff play Frank and Jerry Lee, two washed-up, motel-dwelling brothers who are forced to leave Reno when Jerry Lee kills a boy on a bicycle in a hit-and-run accident. Dakota Fanning, Kris Kristofferson and Joshua Leonard also feature.

Contact Polsky Films, info@polskyfilms.com

Populaire (Fr)

Dir Régis Roinsard

Out of Competition

Set in late-1950s provincial France, this slick-looking rom-com, due out on home turf on November 30, stars Romain Duris (The Beat That My Heart Skipped) and Déborah Francois (The Page Turner). Francois plays a hopeless secretary whose one forte is her typing speed; Duris is her boss, prepared to give her another chance if she wins a typing competition. It is a high-profile feature debut for commercials and music-video director Roinsard, which Wild Bunch (a major player at Rome this year) will be hoping to take on a world tour.

Contact Carole Baraton, Wild Bunch, cbaraton@wildbunch.eu

Tasher Desh (Ind-Bel)

Dir Kaushik Mukherjee


This garish, high-octane take on writer Rabindranath Tagore’s 1933 satirical dance musical is being described as a Bengali Rocky Horror Show. Director Mukherjee - better known as Q - has teamed up with producer Anurag Kashyap to update Tagore’s dig at the rigidity of India’s caste system, via the fable of a prince who is stranded in a land of playing-card people. Co-produced by Belgian company Entre Chien et Loup, Tasher Desh is further proof that it is Kolkata - rather than Mumbai -that is putting out some of India’s most challenging films.

Contact Guneet Monga, Anurag Kashyap Films, guneet@akfpl.com

Waiting For The Sea (Rus-Ger-Bel-Fr-Kaz-Ukr)

Dir Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov

Out of Competition

The opening film of the Rome Festival, Luna Papa director Khudojnazarov’s magic-realist epic, six years in the making, sounds like a Central Asian take on Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, with a dose of Mad Max thrown in. The story centres on a sailor who, faced by the desertification of the sea he once plied, decides to drag his ship across the desert until he finds water. The film stars Egor Beroev, German actor-director Detlev Buck and Russian model-turned-actress Anastasia Mikulchina.

Contact The Match Factory, info@the-match-factory.com