The term 'Festa' underlines Rome's five artistic directors and Cinema Foundation President Goffredo Bettini's push towards creating a audience-friendly event with heavy international flare, ample glamour and strong premieres (particularly European).
By their own admission, Rome is not focusing specifically on world premieres. That said, they have managed to keep on track with last year - 2006 had 12 world premieres in the two top sections, this year has 11 - while pulling out a few eye-catching specialty titles, and attracting a host of Oscar winners onto the red carpet for their Premiere gala section.
Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni, considered the fest's originator, opened the press conference, as fitting, with remarks about Venice and Rome rivalry. 'You remember how Rome opened last year, as if there were a war between Venice and Rome,' the Mayor told the packed press conference. 'In our country, there almost isn't anything related to public life that doesn't resemble a war '
Veltroni went on to say that Venice and Turin have had 'splendid' editions and will continue to do so, but returned to focus on Rome 's emerging importance: Scorsese's Oscar-winning The Departed played at Rome 2006 and Giuseppe Tornatore's The Unknown (which also bowed at Rome last year) will be the Italian candidate to the Oscars for 2008.
This year the two main sections - Cinema 07 and Premiere will host 11 world premieres. Co-artistic director of Cinema 07 Teresa Cavina (with Giorgio Gosetti) pointed out that of the 22 films selected, 14 films will compete for the fest's top prize, the Marco Aurelio award for best film, which comes with lucrative prize money of $283,050 (Euros 200,000).
The films for the Cinema 07 were selected out of 1,122 films viewed and represent 60 countries, Cavina said.
The world premiere competition titles in the Cinema 07 section include French title The Vanishing Point (Ce que mes yeux ont vu) by Laurent De Bartillat; Hafez, an Iran-Japan co-production directed by Abolfazl Jalili; The Right Distance (La giusta distanza) from Italy's Carlo Mazzacurati; also from Italy The Private Man (L'uomo privato) directed by Emidio Greco and Chang Wei Gu's And The Spring Comes (Li Chun) from China.
Cinema 07 - in a gesture of diplomacy with the London Film Festival will co-world premiere Robert Redford's Lions for Lambs, out of competition. The film stars Meryl Streep.
Additionally, Cinema 07 will feature a retrospective on Raul Ruiz - with a new work La Recta Provincia having its world premiere.
Cinema 07's jury is made up of 50 international cinemagoers presided over by Bosnian Oscar-winning director Danis Tanovic.
Twenty-five Italian jurists will be selected by ANEC exhibitor's org and Ciak magazine, while the remaining 25 will be from Europe selected with the support of Europa Cinemas.
Other main prizes include best actor, best actress and a special Jury prize.
Oscar winners and glamorous yet intellectual films won't be missing on Rome's agenda via the Piera Detassis-curated Premiere section, which will see nine Oscar winners sauntering down the red carpet. Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Francis Ford Coppola, Reese Witherspoon, Robin Williams, Gavin Hood, Tim Robbins, Halle Barry, and Robert Redford have all confirmed their attendance.
The section, as previously announced, opens with the Toronto selection Elizabeth: The Golden Age. A special event with a 'black carpet' rather than a red carpet will be featured for the European debut of Dario Argento's The Third Mother featuring his daughter Asia.
Premiere closes with a trio of women-directed features: Julie Taymor's Across The Universe and Susanne Bier's first Hollywood film Things We Lost In The Fire - as well as August Rush directed by Kirsten Sheridan (shared with Alice in the City sidebar).
As previously reported, Premiere also nabbed Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth as a world premiere. That film is set to screen Oct 20 - Coppola is expected on hand with his entire family.
Rome boasts eight more world premieres in the growing Alice in the City Sidebar dedicated to teenage and children's fare, programmed by Gianluca Giannelli. Four of those titles will compete for the Alice in the City prizes including Brad Isaac's Have Dreams, Will Travel starring Lara Flynn Boyle, Val Kilmer and Heather Graham. Kevin Lima's Enchanted, a Manhattan-based love fable featuring Susan Sarandon and Patrick Dempsey, will also premiere.
Alice will also share the world premiere title Let's Say (On Dirait que) by French filmmaker Francoise Marie with Cinema 07's out of competition gala event making bringing the total number of world premieres at Rome this year up to 19.
Alice will assign two prizes led by a young jury: Alice K12 for best film for ages 8-13, and Alice Young Adult, for pictures suitable for young adults and families. Each prize comes with a $35,375 (Euros 25,000) cash prize - an additional official prize in this section is the Paolo Ungari-UNICEF prize awarded to a book with a theme of children's human rights, which comes with a $14,150 (Euros 10,000) prize.
Rome has also given ample space to the film industry in their event that is shaping up as a big attraction for European film launches and industry professionals. The Rome Business Street market will have an increase of 25% more foreign business people than last year (approx 330 buyers and sellers will be on hand), says Giorgio Gosetti who directs The Business Street and co-curates Cinema 07.
The new production network New Cinema Network is doing well in its second year with 14 European second projects and 12 international ones to be presented at the co-production event, also in its second year.
Rome's budget - derived from sponsors (primary sponsors are BNL in the BNP Paribas group, Mini, Gruppo Posteitaliane, Loreal, and others) with the help of regional and local municipality funding (they do not receive State funding) is $17.7m (Euros 12.5m), organisers have confirmed.
Rome's sidebar Extra line up, programmed by Mario Sesti and dedicated to cutting edge fare and special encounters, was previously announced Sept 19.
The full line-up is also available on ScreenDaily.com.