Capri Film Festival: The Italian job

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At loose ends for something to do in the dead time between Christmas and New Year's? Looking to do some low-level schmoozing ahead of awards season? Then the place you want to be is the Capri Hollywood International Film Festival. Best known as a summer playground for the rich and famous, the island resort off the coast of Naples has reserved the last possible slot on the festival calendar (Dec. 26-Jan.2) for its low-key, high glitz event.

"Capri is no stress, it's no bullshit, no pain in the ass," is how festival founder-director Pascal Vicedomini puts it. "We don't have a competition. You don't want competition during your relaxing time. You just want to meet people, maybe talk about your next project, maybe do some campaigning, but mainly you want to eat good food, drink good wine and watch good movies."

Vicedomini admits people were skeptical when, back in 1995, he chose to launch a new festival in the middle of winter.

"The hardest thing was to find a spot on the calendar -- everything was taken," he recalls. "So I took the only time that was still open. The biggest challenge was to have this event in the winter, when everything is closed. But from the start it was a huge success -- it's Capri and there is something magical about this island."

Vicedomini describes Capri as closer to a club than a traditional film festival. This year's event will feature screenings of some big-name titles: James Cameron's "Avatar," Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air" and Lee Daniels' "Precious" among them. But the atmosphere is kept deliberately chummy, with nightly parties often featuring musical performances by the film talent themselves.

"It's not for everyone," he admits. "We don't want to be Cannes or Venice. We're Capri. We're not looking for huge premieres, we are looking for word-of-mouth promotion. Like last year, Samuel L. Jackson came and he asked to come back because he loved it."

Other VIPs expected this year include director Terry Gilliam, who will receive the Capri Festival Excellence Award for "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" and singer-actress Mariah Carey who will receive a special Capri award for her supporting turn in "Precious."

Capri also provides a platform for recent Italian cinema. The biggest and best in local production are given the red-carpet treatment in a series of public screenings on the island.

"We are very much an Italian film festival and we want to draw attention to Italian cinema -- to promote Italian cinema worldwide," Vicedomini says. "Movies today are about content and marketing, so we combine the content power of the films with the marketing power of Capri."

For execs determined to squeeze in a little work, if only to justify the trip to their accountants, Capri's guest list offers a who's who of the Italian industry along with some heavy-hitting Hollywood names like producer Mark Canton, the festival's honorary chairman.

"Capri can be a good opportunity to exchange ideas," Vicedomini says. "But it's a festival of the artist, not a festival of business. You can talk business a bit but you should have a good time. Relax. Have some good Italian wine, Italian food. That's what makes the Capri festival special."
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