When Marc Muller, the former artistic director of Venice of Film Festival, which attracts the brightest stars from Hollywood and beyond, took over Rome Film Festival this year, many expected to see Rome glittering with the most luminous names in the film business, but having spent 5 days at the festival, I didn’t glimpse any sparkles in the Italian capital, other than Sylvester Stallone, who was there to unveil his latest action flick Bullet to the Head.
Attending one of the premieres, I could sense the despair on the long faces of the star-spotters who lined up the red carpet silently, armed with their cameras, while their eyes vainly searched for a familiar face among the fashionably-dressed marching guests, who quickly vanished into the colourfully-lit Auditorium Parco Della Musica.
Even the earlier promise of bringing director Quentin Tarantino and his new movie Django Unchained didn’t materialise, prompting criticism of Muller for failing to attract big names to the festival, which lead to a 15% decline in ticket sales compared with last year.
Nonetheless, the festival offered an impressive number (over 59) of world premieres from international filmmakers, that competed for awards in different categories.
An Italian erotic film “And They Call It Summer”, which was booed during its screening took the two top awards at the Festival: the best director for Paolo Franchi and best actress for Isabella Ferrari, who was heckled with cries of “shame!” when she collected her award at the closing ceremony on Saturday.
The film tells the story of a married man who is unable to have sex with his beloved wife, yet harbours a passion for prostitutes.
Australian Jury member, PJ Hogan, revealed that the Jury was as passionately divided as the audience about the movie. “Good or bad, this film got under you skin,” he said. “Many of you yelled at the screen during it, but many others stood up and applauded it at the end.”
The top prize, however, went to American cult director Larry Clark’s “Marfa Girl”, which deals with adolescent passions, sex and drugs. The director, who has dealt with similar subjects in his previous movies, such as Kids and Ken Park, said that he would release his film on his website instead of the traditional theatrical release.
The best actor award went to French actor Jeremie Elkaim for “Hand in the Hand” and a special jury prize went to Claudio Giovannesi’s “Ali Has Blue Eyes.”
The paucity of blockbusters and the dearth of star power at the 7-year-old festival is a testament that it has a long way to go to catch up with its cousin in the north, the Venice Film Festival.