Rome Festival Unveils Eclectic Lineup, Heavy on New Talents, Lighter on Big Names (Updated)

Django Quentin Tarantino Grabbing Gun - P 2012
The Weinstein Company

Django Quentin Tarantino Grabbing Gun - P 2012

Tarantino's 'Django Unchained' was not in the lineup as expected, but artistic director Marco Mueller hinted the film might still screen in the Eternal City.

ROME – The International Rome Film Festival on Wednesday unveiled an eclectic lineup heavy on first and second works, peppered with a few big-name stars, and a big question mark about Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, a film whispered about for months as likely to be part of the event’s lineup.

First-year artistic director Marco Mueller, who was officially appointed to his post only in May, unveiled a lineup made up of films produced or co-produced in 26 different countries. In July, he promised the lineup would include at least 60 world premieres and as of Wednesday he was short -- the lineup included 59 -- but with two surprise films yet to be named, the unofficial 60-film target will almost surely be reached.

That said, the lineup lacks the star power Mueller regularly pulled in during a successful eight-year stint at the storied Venice Film Festival, though in Wednesday’s briefing he noted that he only had four and a half months to organize the festival, as opposed to a full year each time while in Venice.

Among the biggest names announced Wednesday was Roman Coppola, son of legendary director Francis Ford Coppola, whose breakup comedy A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III features a star-studded cast that includes Bill Murray, Charlie Sheen, Jason Schwartzman, and Anne Bellamy. Japanese director Takashi Miike will bring his thriller Aku No Kyoten (Lesson of Evil) to Rome, while Un Enfant de Toi (You, Me and Us) from France’s Jacques Dollion, and Mai Morire (Never Die), the sophomore effort from Enrique Rivero of Mexico will also screen, all in competition.

The main competition, which will total 15 films after the two surprise selections are announced, will include two other projects from U.S. directors: Gabe and Alan Polsky’s debut film The Motel Life, which recounts the story of two brothers who flee after becoming involved in a hit-and-run accident, and Marfa Girl, a Texas-based drama from Larry Clark. All told, the 13 in-competition films named so far include five that are the first or second effort from the director.

Mueller said the new surprise films were being withheld to avoid problems with censors in their respective countries. He said they would be "important" but that they would not be Hollywood productions.

The out-of-competition selections include Le Guetteur (The Lookout), a French film from Italian director Michele Placido, plus some previously announced productions with big name talents attached: Walter Hill’s Bullet to the Head, a thriller starring Sylvester Stallone, and Dreamworks’ animated film Rise of the Guardians, which includes the voices of Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, and Alec Baldwin -- though it is not yet clear which figures will come to Rome in connection with the film.

Also screening out of competition are V Ožidanii Morja (Waiting for the Sea), an epic drama from Tajikistan-born Russian director Bakhtiar Khudojnazarov announced Tuesday as the festival’s opening film, on Nov. 9, and Una pistolla in cada mano (A Gun In Each Hand), from Catalan director Cesc Gay, which organizers said would close the festival on Nov. 17.

The CinemaXXI section, which focuses on trends in cinema, will include Mundo Invisivel (Invisible World), jointly directed by ten directors including Wim Wenders and 103-year-old Portuguese director Manoel De Oliviera. As previously announced, De Oliviera is also one of four directors associated with Centro Histórico (Historical Ecnter), a homage to the Portuguese city of Guimarães whose directors also include Aki Kaurismaki, Victor Erice, and Pedro Costa. Paul Verhoeven will also appear in CinemaXXI with Steekspel (Tricked), a 52-minute drama.

As previously announced, the world premiere of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 will be the highlight of the festival’s Alice in the City autonomous sidebar for youth audiences. But sidebar organizers said none of the film’s cast will make the trip to the festival in connection with the premiere.

Several films that seemed likely to appear in the lineup, including Johnnie To’s Du zhan (Drug War) and Playing for Keeps from Gabrielle Muccino were not included.

Django Unchained was conspicuous in its official absence from the lineup -- so far, at least. Mueller all but announced that the film would come to Rome, but he was vague about the context in which it would appear, whether it would be during the festival or not, whether it would be the final version of the film or not, and why it was not officially in the program announced Wednesday.

“Django will tread in the Auditorium,” Mueller said, referring to the Auditorium Parco della Music venue that hosts the festival. “Tarantino’s film is not in the program, but you’ll see him here soon.” Official word is expected within a week or so, Mueller said, “when we will announce everything we want to do with Tarantino.”

The appearance of Django Unchained, a Spaghetti Western homage, has been rumored as part of the Rome lineup ever since speculation began that Mueller would be a candidate to become Rome’s artistic director early in the year. But the film has been beset by delays after the high-profile cast departures of Kurt Russell and Sacha Baron Cohen, and with Tarantino working for the first time without editor Sally Menke, who died in 2010.

If the film does indeed screen during the Rome festival, it could do a lot to help amp up Rome’s relative lack of big names. In addition to Tarantino himself, a Rome premiere could include at least some of the film’s high-wattage cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Foxx, Don Johnson, Jonah Hill, as well as Franco Nero, who played the title role in Sergio Corbucci's original Spaghetti Western Classic Django from 1966, and who plays a small role in the new version.

In addition to the sections mentioned above, the festival will also include the Perspectives Italy sidebar for Italian only films -- it will be made up entirely of world premieres and all the feature films are first or second efforts -- as well as The Business Street market event, which will run Nov. 14-18.

In addition to the upcoming announcements about Django Unchained and the two surprise in-competition films, the festival has yet to announce the seven members of the jury that will select the festival’s main awards. It was already announced that writer and director Jeff Nichols would preside over the main jury.


In-competition films:

A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III by Roman Coppola, United States, 2012

AKU NO KYÔTEN (LESSON OF EVIL) by Takashi Miike, Japan, 2012

ALÌ HA GLI OCCHI AZZURRI by Claudio Giovannesi, Italy, 2012

E LA CHIAMANO ESTATE by Paolo Franchi, Italy, 2012

IXJANA by Józef Skolimowski and Micha? Skolimowski, Poland, 2012

MAI MORIRE by Enrique Rivero, Mexico, 2012

MAIN DANS LA MAIN (HAND IN HAND) by Valérie Donzelli, France, 2012

MARFA GIRL by Larry Clark, United States, 2012

THE MOTEL LIFE by Gabe Polsky and Alan Polsky, United States, 2012


UN ENFANT DE TOI  (YOU, ME AND US) by Jacques Doillon, France, 2012

VE?NOE VOZVRAŠ?ENIE (ETERNAL HOMECOMING) by Kira Muratova, Ukraine, 2012

IL VOLTO DI UN'ALTRA by Pappi Corsicato, Italy, 2012


Out-of-competition films:

LA BANDE DE JOTAS (THE GANG OF THE JOTAS) by Marjane Satrapi, France, 2012

BULLET TO THE HEAD by Walter Hill, United States, 2012

LE GUETTEUR (THE LOOKOUT) by Michele Placido, France, 2012

MENTAL by P.J. Hogan, Australia, 2012

POPULAIRE by Regis Roinsard, France, 2012

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS by Peter Ramsey, United States, 2012

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 by Bill Condon, United States, 2012

UNA PISTOLA EN CADA MANO (A GUN IN EACH HAND) by Cesc Gay, Spain, 2012, 100’

V OŽIDANII MORJA (WAITING FOR THE SEA) by Bakhtiar Khudojnazarov, Russia, 2012