Rome Film Fest: Trump, Hillary and American Politics to Take Center Stage

Snowden - Still 1 - Joseph Gordon- Levitt - H 2016
Courtesy of Jurgen Olczyk/Open Road Films

As the U.S. presidential election nears, the Eternal City's premier movie event hopes to spark debate with a screening 'Snowden' and Q&A with director Oliver Stone. Says fest director Antonio Monda, "It will be a heated conversation."

After Brexit shocked the world, Europeans eagerly are anticipating (some might say fearing) the outcome of November's U.S. presidential election. In Italy, where interest in all things American always is sky-high, the Trump vs. Hillary debate is reaching fever pitch.

"America is always the center of conversation in Italy. Everyone's concerned with who is going to win," says Antonio Monda, the Rome-born, New York-based artistic director of the Rome Film Festival.

As a result, Monda will put the U.S. election front and center at this year's festival. In addition to a retrospective of films centered on American politics, Oliver Stone will share his thoughts on the election when he sits down for a Q&A with Monda before a screening of his latest politically charged drama, Snowden.

It might seem odd to focus a large portion of a European festival on an American election, but for Monda the choice was obvious. "It's a no-brainer — it would be silly on my side [not to]," says the 53-year-old, also an NYU film professor and a writer who is well-regarded within New York arts circles for hosting lively salons at his Manhattan apartment.

The doc Fire at Sea examines Europe’s migrant crisis.

The main festival lineup offers 40 films, many dealing with political topics and American history. In addition to the Stone talk, Monda expects politics to pop up in public Q&As during the 11-day event. Several of this year's honorees hold well-known political views, including ardent Clinton supporter Meryl Streep and noted conservative David Mamet. Other guests include Tom Hanks, who will receive the fest's lifetime achievement award, Hugh Grant, Bernardo Bertolucci, Viggo Mortensen and the always-outspoken Vanessa Redgrave.

Monda hopes the retrospective, which will feature 18 films about U.S. politics — including Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, Barry Levinson's Wag the Dog (co-written by Mamet), Warren Beatty's 1998 comedy Bulworth and 1972's prescient Robert Redford starrer The Candidate — will give attendees a fresh perspective on current events. "I'm hoping that through these films people can see what is new and what is not so new about American politics," says Monda.

Redford in the 1972 political drama The Candidate.

The festival also will include a retrospective of films about immigration, such as Elia Kazan's 1963 autobiographical pic America America and Gianfranco Rosi's doc Fire at Sea, winner of this year's Golden Bear in Berlin. They will screen at a school where 70 percent of students hail from outside Italy.

For those expecting a festival of Trump bashing, Monda anticipates a far more balanced discussion. "I'm happy that I have Oliver talking about [politics] three weeks before the election. I'm sure it will be a heated conversation," he says, adding, "Although I read he cannot stand Hillary as well."

This story first appeared in the Oct. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.