Monaco fest: Peace, love, movies

The festival is fighting a war on violence

Sorry, Quentin, you're not invited.

A Tarantino film is as unwelcome at the Monaco International Film Festival -- set for Dec. 3-6 -- as the latest from Lars Von Trier, Chan-Wook Park or any other auteur whose work features onscreen violence.

That's because the Monte Carlo-based festival and its Angel Film Awards were started seven years ago by Rosana Golden and Dean Bentley to showcase nonviolent films. "We wanted to go back to a more 1960s feel," Golden says. "To have a glamorous festival without all that onscreen stabbing, mutilation and so on."

Golden and Bentley personally select the 20-odd films that screen each year. While a little sex is permitted, violence in all its forms is taboo. "The worst you'll hear is a few f-yous onscreen," Golden says.

The experiment started small but has grown steadily, both in profile and reputation. This year, RTL, Germany's top national broadcaster, will be on location to film the festival's awards gala. Media outlets covering the event range from broadcaster BBC World to pan-Arabian newspaper Al Ahram.

Without the support of many indie filmmakers, the festival has focused on less well-known names and projects far outside the mainstream. This year's opening film, for example, is "My Airhostess Roommate" from Chinese director Jiang Qingmin. Based on a popular Internet novel, the modern-day romantic comedy explores the relationship between an urban playboy and a straight-laced airline stewardess who are forced to live together under the same roof.

Jiang's last project, the Japanese-Chinese co-production "True Love," had its world premiere in Monte Carlo two years ago and will again have a "peace celebration screening" this year.

"The filmmakers used the money raised from the film to go back and build a kindergarten in the area in rural China where it takes place," Golden says. "It's that kind of giving back that we want to celebrate."

Another family-friendly film getting the red-carpet treatment this year is "The Reliable System," from Polish director Izabela Szylko. The feel-good comedy stars Alina Janowska as an 80-year-old former aristocratic with a penchant for roulette. Other competition titles include the speculative documentary "What If?" from Canadian director James A. Sinclair and Regardt van den Bergh's South African man-and-horse tale "Tornado and the Kalahari Horse Whisperer."

This year's jury, headed by British actor Max Ryan ("Sex and the City 2"), will pick the winners of the Angel Film Awards in the categories of best feature film, documentary, animation, music video, screenplay and short film.

But while the competition lineup may appeal to the better angels of our nature, this is Monte Carlo, after all. So the four-day festival also includes three nights of VIP parties.

"Of course, glamour is a big part of it. We aren't a beer and pretzel festival," Golden notes. "We have our networking parties every night for the industry. But it isn't a mass factory, we are an independent niche and that's where we intend to stay."

Still, the Angel Film Awards are looking to expand. Golden and Bentley are negotiating with merchandising partners and international sponsors to hopefully make it a worldwide brand.
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