Rome Fest Breaks Down Barriers Between Fans, Filmmakers

Fifth edition of international film festival opens with Keira Knightley-starrer "Last Night."

Created in 2006 by former Mayor Walter Veltroni to be a film event with “more cinema for everybody,” the fifth edition of the International Rome Film Festival is again chipping away at the traditional barriers between fans and filmmakers. How many fests, for instance, present the opportunity to interact with the likes of composer Ennio Morricone?

“What is new this year is the creation of a special series of events dedicated to the most curious people,” artistic director Piera Detassis says. “What makes our festival unique and different fromany other are its multiculturalism and variety, and the possibility that people get to easily meet their favorite talents. The IRFF has awarmer and more friendly approach [than other festivals].”

In addition to Spettacolo, a new sidebar that will feature amaster class with Morricone, the fest is offering an emphasis on children and young adultswith a section called Alice in the City and a focus on Japan that will include an homage to the famed Ghibli studio and the premiere of The Borrowers, an animated fantasy co-written by Hayao Miyazaki.

Hollywood will be represented by a screening of John Cameron Mitchell’s Nicole Kidman-starrer Rabbit Hole, and Julianne Moore will be on hand to accept a special acting prize for her body of work. But local heroeswill not be ignored completely, with a tribute planned for the 50th anniversary of Federico Fellini’s classic La Dolce Vita as well as a series of screening dedicated to late actor Ugo Tognazzi, perhaps best known for his role in the 1978 farce La Cage aux Folles.

The IRFF is also going to look at the increasing presence ofmajor filmmakers in television, a trend that few film festivals even acknowledge. “For the first time, this year there will be no barriers between cinema and TV series, in order to underline their increasing closeness,” Detassis says. “For this reason we will screenMartin Scorsese’s pilot for Boardwalk Empire and the screen version of Olivier Assayas’ TV series Carlos.”

In terms of attendance, the Rome fest appears in good shape. In 2006 the event registered 480,000 visitors; by 2009 that number had grown to 600,000. In all, the festival has been visited by more than 2 million people since 2006. While skeptics have noted there are fewer screenings, Detassis says this was “only in order to offer each the best promotion and public visibility.”

As always, the IRFF will be take place primarily in and around Renzo Piano’s whalelike Auditorium Parco della Musica, with the Business Street — the section devoted to the market — located in central Via Veneto.

As for the much-discussed competitiveness between Rome and the Venice Film Festival, Detassis says it’s time for everyone to move on. “The comparison between Venice and Rome is completely useless and futile,” she says. Her one desire, she says, is “never [to] have to answer the question about the competition with Venice again. It is time for people and the press to accept the idea of a big metropolitan festival that is only willing to grow.”