Rome Film Fest Turning Heads at Halfway Point

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Wes Anderson's public event was one of Wednesday's highlights in Rome

The festival's market event, The Business Street, got under way Wednesday and will run through Sunday.

ROME -- At its halfway point, the Rome Film Festival is putting memories of last year's event behind it with strong ticket sales, sold-out screenings and events, and a lineup that has much of the Italian capital talking.

Wednesday's highlights included an audience event with Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, along with the world premiere of Hard to Be a God, the magnum opus from Russian auteur Aleksei German. German died in February, and his career honor Wednesday -- his widow and son were on hand to receive it -- made Rome the first international festival to give a career honor posthumously.

The Business Street, the festival's market event, also got under way Wednesday and will run through Sunday, when the festival concludes. Officials said the number of market badge holders was up 6 percent compared to last year.

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Among the in- and out-of-competition films attracting attention, Spike Jonze's Her, which screened over the festival's opening weekend, created the biggest buzz so far. But plenty of others -- including the difficult Sorry and Joy from Denmark's Nils Malmros, Blue Sky Bones from Jian Cui, Scott Cooper's revenge drama Out of the Furnace, Border from Alessio Cremonini and Dallas Buyers Club from Jean-Marc Vallee -- have all attracted attention.

Industry officials say the event is attracting positive attention in international circles, although the Italian press continues to give the eight-year-old festival -- under the artistic direction of former Venice head Marco Mueller for the second year -- a lukewarm reception.

On tap for Thursday, the world festival premiere of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, with stars Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson as well as director Francis Lawrence expected to traverse Rome's red carpet ahead of the premiere.

Also, Checco Zalone, star of the latest Italian megahit Sun in Buckets (Sole a catinelle), will host a public event that is already sold out. Along with his 2011 hit comedy What a Beautiful Day (Che bella giornata), Zalone has starred in the two highest grossing Italian films ever, based on domestic box office receipts.

Twitter: @EricJLyman