A mix of big Hollywood productions and arty European movies will mark Rome’s first international film festival next month, organizers said on Tuesday as they played down rivalry with Venice’s venerable film contest.
French and Italian movies dominate the 16-film lineup for the Rome festival’s main competition, which has a distinct European, art-house flavor and includes no U.S. title.
Four American films will screen in the section devoted to international premieres, with Steven Shainberg’s “Fur” — the story of U.S. photographer Diane Arbus played by Nicole Kidman — opening the nine-day festival on October 13.
In fact, the official competition is almost certain to take a back seat to a series of special events and screenings which include the presentation of Martin Scorsese’s new thriller “The Departed” and a tribute to Sean Connery.
Other celebrities who organizers expect to grace Rome’s red carpet are Leonardo Di Caprio, Richard Gere, Viggo Mortensen, Monica Bellucci and Harrison Ford.
Ever since the capital’s mayor Walter Veltroni, a movie buff, announced plans for his Festa del Cinema, he has been accused of trying to divert stars and money away from the world’s oldest film competition in Venice.
But Rome organizers say their budget of some 12 million euros ($15 million) mostly comes from private funds and insist theirs will be a city festival with a more popular approach than the traditionally high-brow Venice event.
“This will mainly be a festival for the public and not just for the film industry,” the head of Rome’s festival, Goffredo Bettini, told a news conference.
Veltroni said his and the Venice Lido event would walk “hand in hand” but appeared to take a swipe at Venetian organizers — who have voiced concern at the challenge from Rome — by saying that “Italy is a country where people are afraid of novelty.”
The director of the Venice festival, Marco Mueller, triggered a storm last month when he asserted that the films screened in Rome were those that “neither we or Cannes wanted.”
Since then Rome officials have said that after this year’s event, they are ready review the dates of their festival — currently regarded as too close for Venice’s comfort.
One big difference between the events is that unlike Venice’s star-studded jury, in Rome it will be up to 50 ordinary film-goers, under the supervision of Italian director Ettore Scola, to decide who deserves the best movie award.