The second edition of the Rome Film Festival which took place during October 2007 closed recently in the Eternal city and judging by the statistics the city council and event organizers are boasting, the festival was a resounding success with a 30% increase in film-goers and brisk business done amongst distributors and producers. Certainly, as a festival in its infancy having to make its way in a local scene dominated by the prestigious Venice Film Festival (which takes place in September), the path hasn't been easy. Criticism against Rome's mayor Walter Veltroni has been severe – a cinema festival demonstrates his distorted priorities about the needs of the capital city, some claim – although, credit where credit's due, the man really does know how to pull off a big party! Held predominantly at Renzo Piano's dramatic Rome Auditorium (with repeat showings of many films in cinemas throughout the city) the area becomes a cinema village of sorts, with exhibitions, stands and food halls, and with the all important red carpet area easily accessible for fans. YouTube is full of the ubiquitous fan footage of autographs being signed; for the main part the actors were extremely generous with their time and obligingly posed for photographs. Tom Cruise arrived a good hour early for his red carpet walk about.
Curiously, last year the press bemoaned the festival's focus on US movie stars and lack of homegrown talent, yet this year most of the reports I read insisted that there weren't enough A-list international stars! All very bizarre considering that in the space of ten days the Rome Film Festival red carpet was graced by the likes of Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Tom Cruise, Robert Redford, Sophia Loren, Halle Berry, Francis Ford Coppola, Tim Roth, Sean Penn, Gerard Depardieu, Jane Fonda, Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal...the list goes on and on!
What irks journalists most is likely the populist appeal of the event. Whereas access to other festivals requires skillful networking and connections to get anywhere near the event, tickets for any of the premieres at the Rome Film Festival are open to anybody who is able to book fast enough when they go on sale. I managed to bag four film premieres (Elizabeth,Rendition, Lions for Lambs and Into the Wild) with the Oscar winning stars present at all showings, and last year, was at the premiere showing of Scorsese's The Departed with both director and Leonardo DiCaprio present.
The Rome Film Festival promises to continue to be one of the highlights of the Rome calendar and well worth a look if you're planning an autumn trip to Rome.