David Cronenberg haunts Rome fest

Filmmaker's appearance among Day 2 highlights

ROME -- A lively session with Canadian horror film icon David Cronenberg and the official start of the competition screenings were among the highlights as the Rome International Film Festival got under way in earnest Thursday.

The day also included a special "Location: Off-Limits" discussion on the festival's sidelines. The meeting, the first of its kind in Italy, brought together representatives of regional government, the church and filmmakers to discuss ways to make it easier for films to be made on historic properties.

Though the participants did not reach a conclusion on specific changes, they did agree that the process of getting permission to film in locations owned by the Church or government need to be simplified.

"Everyone agrees the bureaucracy needs to stripped away," said Paolo Di Maira, one of the event's organizers.

The newly refurbished version of Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather" debuted in L'Altro Cinema sidebar, and Thursday also was the first full day of activity at the festival's bustling International Film Market, held in a series of hotels along Rome's famous Via Veneto.

But it was the packed auditorium for the festival's "Encounter With David Cronenberg" that attracted the lion's share of the day's attention. In town for an exhibition of stills from his films (see slideshow below), Cronenberg told the enthusiastic crowd that he is "guided only by (his) instinct" and that the horrors his films illustrate are related to the human condition.

"Human beings are only animals that imagine they are something other than what they are," he said.

The Rome festival continues through Oct. 31.

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