Rome Film Fest ready for business

Festival has seen record ticket sales leading up to its opening

ROME -- The Rome International Film Festival is proving it means business four years into its existence.

The festival has gone through many changes in its short history. It has already changed its name once, it has had two presidents, a year-by-year evolution in the position of artistic director, and this time around it features a slimmed down in-competition lineup. One constant has been The Business Street, the festival's market.

The market, the film festival section that has mostly resisted last year's en masse name changes (officially it's the "Mercato Internazionale del Film di Roma," but most people still use the pithier "The Business Street" moniker), runs the first four days of the film festival, which opens Thursday and concludes Oct. 23. The market event has grown each year of its existence, and registrations are reportedly 15% higher this year than in 2008. The budget is a healthy €1.3 million ($1.9 million).

The Business Street looks to bridge the gap between the September market in Toronto and February's Berlin market, the same spot in the calendar once dominated by the now-defunct MIFED in Milan.

It boasts what organizers call a low-pressure meeting place lined up along one of the most famous and picturesque streets in Europe, the Via Veneto.

The market serves as a compliment to a film festival creating a niche for itself on the world stage, with a 14-film competition made up entirely of world and international premieres and a long roll-call of A-list stars set to walk across the festival's red carpet including George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Richard Gere, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Monica Bellucci, and Colin Farrel.

The festival, which has seen record ticket sales leading up to its Thursday opening, gets underway with Danis Tanovic's "Triage," which stars Farrel as a war photographer.