Inside the festival
LADIES. The Official Selection, in competition and out of competition, revolves around women, starting with the opening film The Lady by Luc Besson, a biography of the Nobel Peace Prize Aung San Suu Kyi. But there will be many more internationally celebrated women, in addition to the numerous Italian leading ladies present, who will be stepping the red carpet in Rome, including the Asian stars Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi and the likes of Olivia Newton-John, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Isabelle Huppert, Charlotte Rampling, Felicity Jones, Marcia Gay Harden, Kristin Scott Thomas, Noomi Rapace, Penelope Cruz. Despite this year's Marc'Aurelio Acting Award going to Richard Gere, it is equally clear that Rome 2011 will undoubtedly be an ongoing workshop in the art of the actress. For those who enjoy word play, the Festival will celebrate an 80-year-old Monica Vitti and will close with the presentation of the restored copy of Breakfast at Tiffany's (which hit the screen exactly 50 years ago), culminating in the wonderful exhibition of the Roman life of Audrey Hepburn, the ultimate lady.
A TRIP AROUND ITALY. To celebrate Italy's Unification the Rome Festival this year will be taking a fascinating Trip around Italy, starting from the north in the grips of the economic crisis (L'Industriale by Montaldo and Il mio domani by Marina Spada) and then gradually winding its way down the peninsula with stop overs in Pupi Avati's Marche, Ivan Cotroneo's Naples and Pippo Mezzapesa's Puglia. Great masters and young début directors, tense modern stories to describe a country very much in the balance, yet still very much alive, along with the American experience undertaken by Roberto Faenza with his Some Day This Pain will be Useful to You, based on Peter Cameron's cult novel. During the various stages of the trip, in a host of special events, we will encounter many different instances of Italian identity, summed up by two prestigious restorations (Rotaie, I cannibali) and important curios, which include the documentaries dedicated to Califano, De Bartolomei, the rediscovery of Lelio Luttazzi as a director and the surprise of what we'd rather refer to as Furio Scarpelli's last film (though effectively directed by his grandson Filiberto) Tormenti, a graphic novel of classic intensity.
A COMEDY AGAINST THE CRISIS. The major crisis that has befallen Western markets could not avoid being featured strongly in the Festival films: the master Curtis Hanson with his Too big to Fail provides an insider account of the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008, the main characters of L'Industriale and Cedric Kahn's Une vie meilleure ravaged by the banks and the credit system while Il mio domani, among other issues, also handles the bright eyed folly behind people losing their jobs.
But it is comedy, a genre often relegated onto the sidelines in festivals, that in this edition actually seems to sketch a different attitude to the times we're living in: laughter and a lightness of touch are the true distinctive features of the official selection, as the surprising 3D Totò movie suitably restored for the occasion would seem to underline. From the smiling transgression of Hysteria to the class and sex wars of Mon pire cauchemar, from the vaudeville style Totalitarianism of Hotel Lux to the films of Avati and Cotroneo not to mention Un cuento chino and the exhilarating and somewhat rude farce displayed in A Few Best Men by Stephen Elliott, there are many films that blatantly aim to amuse yet without foregoing the chance to sew seeds for thought and elements of style. A very wilful decision to transgress compared to the usual staid nature of festivals.
It will therefore hardly come as a surprise that two among the greatest contemporary directors, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese in association with the Alice nella città section, are showing previews of Tintin e Hugo Cabret, animation works and graphic novels, light 3D entertainment designed for kids. Imagining a Rome Festival for us means first of all looking to our greatest asset, our enthusiastic audiences, for whom we hope to have built a journey through our contemporary global society (with Korean and Chinese films - the forceful Poonsang and Love for Life - and Australian, Argentinian, Norwegian, French, American and English movies in competition) revisited with the help of a whole range of expressive tools, none excluded, including very extreme genres which this year have led to the inclusion of horror films in the official selection (Babycall). Because Rome is about its audience and its film market, about quality and pop enthusiasm, and because the Festival is also a party. An original format, that fears - and entertains - no imitations.
Piera Detassis, Artistic Director
International Rome Film Festival