Rome Film Fest: 'Captain Fantastic' Wins People’s Choice Award

Captain Fantastic - H 2016
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

The Matt Ross film has been a huge hit on the festival circuit this year.

Matt Ross’ second film, Captain Fantastic, won the People’s Choice Award at the 11th Rome Film Fest on Saturday. In the pic, Viggo Mortensen stars as a radical father raising his children to peak mental and physical condition in the Pacific Northwest wilderness, until his wife’s abrupt death forces them to return to society.

Ross and Mortensen were both on hand to present the movie in Rome to the great pleasure of fans who came out in droves to see them speak at events surrounding the film.

Captain Fantastic has been very successful on the festival circuit after its Sundance debut, also taking home the best director prize in Cannes this year in Un Certain Regard and audience awards in Deauville and Karlovy Vary.

The pic was co-presented by the Rome Film Fest and Alice Nella Citta, an independent sidebar of the festival targeted toward young audiences.

“It’s an award for utopia,” said Piera Detassis, president of the Fondazione Cinema per Roma. “Our audiences have always held in high consideration this type of story.”

“Utopia is widespread now, but utopia is what has guided us in our work, the idea to break away from barriers and stereotypes,” she continued. “The barriers we wanted to break down are the barriers between this space in Rome, the auditorium and the rest of the city.” 

Rome was dubbed this year as a UNESCO “City of Film,” and the fest wanted to reflect that, expanding well beyond its headquarters at the Auditorium Parco della Musica, holding screenings across the city from the Spanish Steps to the Rebibbia prison.

The Alice Nella Citta jury, led by actor Matt Dillon, presented its TaoDue Award for best film to Justin Tipping for his sneaker saga Kicks. The Golden Camera Award went to Selma Vilhunen's Finnish film Little Wing

This year's fest had a wide variety of guests involved in “Close Encounter” conversations with the audience, including Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Roberto Benigni, Don DeLillo and Viggo Mortensen. One noticeable absence from the red carpet was Rooney Mara, who had three films in the fest but was unable to attend because of scheduling issues. She was last at the event in 2014 for her film Trash, which took home the fest's People’s Choice Award that year.

Overall, the Rome Film Fest was a great success for the city. With the same number of screenings, audience attendance rose 18 percent and ticket sales rose 13 percent over the previous year.

The fest screened 72 films in total from 26 countries. Including multiple films that are at the center of awards talk, including Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea.

"Every year they ask us about our identity and this year they did not,” said Detassis of past criticism of the fest, which rebranded itself last year as a “festa,” or celebration of film.

“Instead of one identity, our richness is the fact that we have a multiple of identities,” she continued. “It’s a cinema fest, we have meetings with personalities, we have the market MIA, where the film industry gathers, and Alice Nella Citta for young adults."

Added festival director Antonio Monda: “Why should we be a copy of Venice, when we have our own identity. We’re not competing with other festivals. People do not just come to Rome to walk on the red carpet. I want personalities to come here and sit down and talk with people.”

The Rome Film Fest is further planning on expanding its presence in the city, and has already secured the Santa Cecilia Hall, the largest venue at the Auditorium Parco della Musica, for next year’s festivities.