It was no surprise the first edition of the Rome Film Fest in October 2006 took place during Walter Veltroni's term in office.

The mayor of Rome, Veltroni is a cinephile who enjoys meeting Hollywood regulars to the city such as Tom Cruise, George Clooney and Robert De Niro.

Veltroni has worked tirelessly to increase Rome's visibility on screen and to promote the city as a location for international film-makers. He may have kept a low profile during last year's festival, but his presence loomed large above the proceedings.

When it was announced that last year's event would open with the world premiere of Steven Shainberg's Fur: An Imaginary Portrait Of Diana Arbus, starring Nicole Kidman, the industry sat up and took notice. Rome meant business.

This year's festival will open in similar glitzy style with the European premiere of Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth: The Golden Age starring Cate Blanchett.

The rest of the festival will be a mixture of crowd-pleasing US fare, infused with Asian and European auteur-driven works. It is the blend of these elements that define their philosophy which can be expressed in one word - festa, the Italian word for party.

This is the atmosphere the festival's organisers want to create and one that underlines the synthesis between the city and the event. While most of the festival events take place at Rome's auditorium, designed by architect Renzo Piano, other events, concerts and screenings are held in various locations throughout the city.

The Rome Film Fest is presided over by Goffredo Bettini, who is also the president of the Cinema for Rome foundation. Additionally, the festival has five artistic directors for its sections which include:

  • Premiere, the gala section, is curated by magazine editor Piera Detassis
  • Cinema 2007 is dedicated to films in and out of competition and is managed by Teresa Cavina and Giorgio Gosetti
  • Extra is chaired by film critic Mario Sesti and includes documentaries and experimental films
  • Actors Craft is a deconstruction of a formal press conference which offers informal encounters with actors and directors
  • Alice in the City, under the aegis of Gianluca Giannelli, is devoted to films for children.

The organisers' previous experience at international festivals encouraged them to consider the historical development of film festivals.

The group was keen to create the right niche for the kind of event that would take in Rome.

First and foremost, the Rome Film Fest is about the films. 'It's not the audience coming to the festival and trying to be part of a club,' says Gosetti of the informal atmosphere they have sought to create. 'We come to the audience because without the audience, cinema doesn't exist.'