Friday, December 01, 2006

Check out the JCU student newspaper online

The Matthew, John Cabot University's long-running newspaper, is now online for the world to read. Click here to check it out. And, please let us know what you think.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

From Russia to Rome with love

By Jake Coyle

He's known as the original Bond, James Bond, but he could just as easily be called the $1.6 billion man.

After 64 films, Sean Connery's box office gross is akin to the GDP of a decent-sized country. And, for this accomplishment and many others on-screen, the RomeFilmFest is paying him tribute with the Marcus Aurelius lifetime achievement award.

The fest is host to a series of world premiers as well as a series of classics. A select number of classics, or “retros,” as they are known in the industry, have been hand-picked by Connery, who drew from a collection of his personal favorites.

Famous for his roles as James Bond, Connery picked only one film from the series to be showcased at the festival, the classic "From Russia with Love". The film is widely considered the best of the Bond series; it's also Connery’s favorite.

The story, by Ian Fleming, was originally published in 1957. It was even preferred by former President John F. Kennedy who said, “if I was to vacation on a desert island I would bring only two books with me-the Bible and From Russia with Love.” More recently, the video game company Electronic Arts adapted the film into a game of the same name with voice-overs by Connery himself.

Despite the potential benefits to Italian film ushered in by the presence of such high profile celebrities as Connery, the oldest film festival in the world has shown some contempt for the new Roman endeavor. Art director Marco Muller of the Venice Film Festival created a buzz of controversy when he delcared the films being shown in Rome had been rejected by Venice. Rome organizers responded angrily, calling Muller’s remarks “an incredible offence to cinema.”

Monica Scattini, an Italian actress starring in various films over the years and most recently a TV series called "Un Ciclone in Famiglia", believes in the notion that two fests are better than one. “It’s a good opportunity for Rome and the Italian film industry,” she told Rome-ing the CinemaFest.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

An informal affair

By Valerie Cancellieri

Forget the classy dresses, or the five inch heels, the 2006 RomeFilmFest is an informal affair.

“The festival is not an elegant event, rather jeans and a t-shirt will do, especially for a student,” according to Camilla, a fashion expert working at Rome's Moppo Outlet Settimana. This might bring disappointment to the few who do enjoy dressing up for special events, but Camilla can provide solutions to accentuate the simple outfit. In other words, you don't need to dress in Chanel, Gucci or Yves St Laurent like Nicole Kidman to look like a million bucks.

The Spanish steps area would be the first place that a FilmFest attendee might go to scope out the perfect outfit. Although known as a shopper’s paradise, the steps need not be scaled for this event. Similar to the film festival in Newport, Rhode Island, this affair is a casual event. instead, the Vatican neighborhood of Prati is where a shopper wants to be. Via Ottavino to be specific.

Via Ottavino has boutiques such as Choppin, O.k.a.y Fashion, and Dieci and many more along the entire street. Besides the boutiques, there are outdoor market vendors selling one euro shirts, shoe stores, and the accessory boutiques.

Now, the details. How exactly should the simple outfit look like? The shopper can begin with the high knee boots from Danielle. A few boutiques down, one can find the perfect kind of stretch boot cut jeans, followed by a simple off the shoulder neutral top, or long style top that flatters each body type. Hint: wear a belt over the shirt. The ending piece of the outfit needs to be with a big style necklace, either pearls or big beads. With the reasonable prices, one can truly mix and match the simplicity of shoes, necklaces, and jeans to stand out in the crowd.

Camilla suggests that it is the fun of wearing different types of fancy jewelry, belts, and shoes that makes fashion fun. In the end, remember this: it is up to the shopper to keep it simple and dress it up with the accessories.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Monica Bellucci: More than just a pretty face

By Erica Smith

You may not be familiar with the name, but the face is unforgettable. The name is Monica Bellucci. And she's more than just a pretty face.

Bellucci, 42, has had a paradoxical career. She repeatedly has been voted repeatedly one of "Maxim’s" hottest women, even after playing Mary Magdalene in Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ".

She thinks of herself as a daughter of Europe, and rightfully so. Born in Umbria, she has been in a number of successful European films and has also been nominated for France's Cesar award for most promising young actress for her role in “Appartment’L”.

Acting was never her plan, but something she landed after modeling to help get through law school. It was a small role in the 1992 film "Bram Stoker’s Dracula".

Despite all her success in French, Italian and American cinema, she does not consider herself a movie star. In a recent interview with E!’s Warren Curry, she says, “I’m not a movie star -- I’m just an actress. What I like is to have the possibility now to play very interesting, different characters. It’s not about the beauty, the charm or the sensual appearance; now it’s more about acting and that’s what I’m happy about.”

She takes projects that she thinks are interesting or challenging, looking foremost at the director and second at the script.

Besides being a model and the face of Dior, Bellucci remains an icon and an internationally-known beauty without playing all glamorous roles. In the 2002 French film "Irreversible", she is brutally raped in a subway. In "Brother’s Grimm", she plays a 500-year-old woman. She is versatile and open-minded when it comes to characters, allowing her to play so many different roles with ease.

When talking to Stefano Rizzi, a movie-goer outside Trastevere's Cinema Nuovo, he lit up at the name Monica Bellucci. "Yes I know her! She has been my favorite actress for as long as I can remember."

The same theater regretfully informs that they wont be showing Bellucci's most recent film "N (Io e Napoleon)" -- just more reason to check out the RomeFilmFest.

Bellucci stars in the Paolo Virzi-directed film with acclaimed French actor Daniel Auteuil as the exiled dictator. The film takes place on the island of Elba where a strongly anti-Napoleonic teacher falls in love with the baroness Emily, played by Bellucci. He takes a job as librarian to Napoleon, which inevitably leads to an up-close look at the real man, Napoleon, rendering many unexpected observations.

As Rome goes Hollywood this week, Bellucci may be found over cafe with the other big names or walking arm-in-arm with husband Vincent Cassel. Whether she thinks it or not, she will be a star of the event, and is sure to enthrall Rome.

Star gazing at the FilmFest

By Ainsley Woakes

This week, the stars will be out in Rome. But there is no need to look to the sky. With the first annual RomeFilmFest kicking off this weekend, a few of Hollywood’s finest will appear, including Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sean Connery and Martin Scorsese. For one week, Hollywood will be in Rome. But where exactly in Rome will the celebs be?

Alfredo Martinez has a pretty good idea. He has handled public relations for a number of clubs in Rome including Supper Club, Bloom, and Art Café. He casually mentions that Owen Wilson frequents Supper Club while in town. Martinez also reveals that Colin Farrell has visited Bloom on recommendation from other Hollywood elite.

“They come because these clubs are the ‘in-spots," he says. "The atmosphere, the guests, the location, all around it’s a celebrity environment.”

If there’s a celebrity to be spotted during RomeFilmFest, these clubs are a great place to start.

Supper Club is located a short distance from the Pantheon on Via de Nari, 14. Be careful not to miss it. There is no sign, and usually no bouncers outside. Bloom is found near Piazza Navona on Via del Teatro Pace. Beneath the gardens of Villa Borghese is Art Café. Its seasonal grand opening was last week, so the scene is sure to be impressive.

On any given night these clubs are sure to offer a great selection of music, drinks, and pure entertainment. With the excitement of Rome’s first ever film festival, the nightclub atmosphere should not be missed. Whether in the sky, on the red carpet, or just around town, the stars will be out. You just have to know where to find them.

La Dolce Vita, remembered

By Anna Cooper

Everyone knows the phrase "la dolce vita". Marcello Mastroianni is the reason why, helping to start a global movement in the 1960s that continues to sweeten lives worldwide today. Simply put, Mastroianni is Italy's answer to James Dean, a cultural icon who captivated audiences with amazing performances on screen, time after time.

Over 45 Mastroianni films will be screened at the RomeFilmFest in an honorary tribute to remember the film great.

Ten years after his death, Mastroianni maintains a loyal fan base, Professor Peter Sarram from John Cabot University says, adding “no other male Italian actor can compare”.

Mastroianni first broke out as an enormous hit in Italian cinema in the late 1950’s. His popularity is linked with director Federico Fellini and actress Sophia Lauren.

Mastroianni’s global breakthrough came in Fellini’s 1960’s international hit, "La Dolce Vita". In this classic about a young journalist caught up in the high life along Rome's via Veneto, Mastroianni earned the title, “the Latin lover.”

During his lifetime, Mastroianni’s on-screen performances earned him several awards and nominations. Including two Academy Award nominations for his films "Divorce, Italian Style", "Dark Eyes" and "A Special Day", as well as Golden Globe wins for "Divorce, Italian Style", followed by another win in "Marriage, Italian Style."

Mastroianni took great pleasure in acting; in an interview with the New York Times, he expressed his opinion about being in front of the camera, simply stating, “I just get up there and act. It’s great fun”.

The tribute opens Thursday, Oct. 12. Film screenings will be held at the Casa Del Cinema, in the Villa Borghese Park and run through Saturday, Oct. 21.

Confessions of a party crasher

No party pass? No problem. Kristen Lem tells us how to charm your way behind the velvet rope.

She awakens. A name and phone number are scribbled on her left hand. A young man is beside her, asleep. They are both fully clothed. He has a thumping headache, she does not because of Rule #1: consume drinks with one-to-one tonic water to alcohol ratio. So begins another day in the life of a party crasher.

RomeFilmFest will pack some of the biggest, baddest parties of the year. The nine-day glamfest make most weak with anticipation in hope of a wild alcohol-induced evening, followed by a week’s worth of inside jokes and provocative photos on Flickr.

Smile, as she’s known to friends, has a 24-year-old heart that beats a little faster than most due to Rule #2: engage in cardiovascular activity six to eight hours before party to release confidence-boosting endorphins and pheremones. With the film fest in full swing, she puts in an extra ten minutes on the treadmill.

*Smile, an American student, lives in an apartment in Rome with two other Americans, Metro and Diva, also in their early 20s.

Metro yells from the bathroom, “does my hair look messy or messed up?” She assures him that it looks messy, and, is in accordance with Rule #3: must look good without evidence of effort. Smile peers at the mirror to decide on her own appearance for tonight. She goes with fire-engine red lips, making her already large teeth look like pieces of Dentyne Ice gum, but a perfect example of Rule #4: accentuate unique flaw.

Dressed to crash, Smile and Diva negotiate their platform heels against the unforgiving cobblestones as they trail behind Metro, who leads the way towards neon lights and a pulsing atrium. Girls built like gazelles are ogled by stallions who craft the words “ciao, bella” into poetry. The entrance price for this Borghese garden of flesh is 300 euros. Smile, Metro, and Diva have considerably less pocket money, but are richly determined.

The only thing big about Smile is her teeth. She squeezes her petite frame past modelesque party-goers and over the brocade rope separating the crashers from the party. She is met by a large bouncer, but acts as if his presence is unexpected. He is angry, twice her size, and demanding an explanation for her brazen behavior. Smile points past the bouncer, saying in English that Alfredo let her in --"Alfredo" being a favorite dish of creamy pasta she regularly orders at Il Conti.

The bouncer shakes his head “no.” Smile’s face saddens, but she persists, “solo tre persone, per favore.” She flashes her best grin and points to Diva, who has already taken cue to start dancing provocatively with Metro. Diva’s moves are equal parts serpent, stripper, and Shakira. Having hypnotized the bouncer, the dancer unhooks the rope and the three crashers march in to the beat of their own success. Surrounded by pages of a Vogue magazine come to life, Metro, Diva, and Smile go to work.

It's now 6 a.m. Buzzed off hip-hop and free vodka tonics, Smile and a young man stumble through her apartment door. She reaches for the light and he reaches for her. Remembering Rule #5: a party crasher never sacrifices her integrity, Smile whispers, “I’ve just had a Brazilian. My waxer says no sex for three days.” Aroused and disappointed, he backs away. She breathes a sigh of relief and wonders just how painful a Brazilian is, if she will never get one, and where the next party will be.

*Rome-ing the CinemaFest decided not to use the real identities of the student gate-crashers mentioned in the story, but instead opted to go with their nicknames so as not to blow the cover of these truly intrepid party crashers.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Fellini, fountains, and film fanatics

By Shira Strassman

For most people, the name Mussolini means fascism, not film. Yet history reveals that beneath the surface of the vile dictatorship lies the true origin of great Italian film production. The RomeFilmFest will reveal some of these early milestones in a tribute to Rome’s biggest empire in recent history: its one-time reign at the top of world cinema.

It was Mussolini’s son, Romano, who inspired a new wave in Italian cinema and the eventual construction of the Cinnecità Studios in Rome, according to Peter Sarram, professor of Italian film at John Cabot University.

The pinnacle of Rome’s initial success in the film industry came with the post-World-War-II birth of Neo-realism. It was a movement that brought street life to the big screen. “It transformed world cinema,” Sarram said. Directors like Federico Fellini ("La Dolce Vita"), Nanni Moretti ("Caro Diario"), and Vittorio De Sica (";Ladri di Biciclette") made their marks by portraying reality itself as a spectacle to be seen and moreover, to entertain. Ancient Roman monuments served as the backdrop of classics like Fellini’s 1960’s film, "La Dolce Vita";, which has since brought more attention to the Trevi Fountain than any tourist brochure ever could.

“It’s a big moral parable,” said Sarram of La Dolce Vita. “The contrast between history and nightlife…is perfect. It’s where the fall of the Roman Empire meets decadence, meets lewd behavior, meets modernity.” And in 2006, capturing modernity is exactly what the Festival aims to achieve. The “Eternal City” will transcend the boundaries of time and culture once again, this time by bridging the roots of great Italian film with the best of what present-day movie-makers have to offer.

The influence of "La Dolce Vita" on film buffs worldwide has extended far beyond their appreciation for innovative filming techniques. The image of sultry actress Anita Ekberg bathing in the Trevi Fountain is etched in the minds of Italian cinema fans -- and, as of Aug. 2002, it’s landed some Dolce Vita enthusiasts in jail. >Until recently, reenactments of the scene by tourists who visited the fountain were a frequent sighting.

Now, by local ordinance, it carries a fine of up to 500 euros. Still, the Fountain will serve as an outdoor venue during the Cinema Festival when, if the pricy penalty isn’t enough of a deterrent, security and crowds will likely further crush the dreams of any remaining Dolce hopefuls.

“Do you think Italian Neo-realism is dead or alive?” asked one reporter in an early scene from La Dolce Vita. A giggly Anita Ekberg had no time to respond, transforming the query into a rhetorical statement that lingers today. Nearly half-a-century later, when post-war cinematic genius is re-illuminated on the streets of Rome at Cinema Festa Internazionale, the answer may very well be, “Certo!”

Tour guide by day, centurion by night

By Tyler Pryor

“I lost almost 6 kilos with the armor, in the middle of the summer.” That's how 28-year-old Alistair Madronii describes his experience shooting the HBO mini-series “Rome.” By day, Madronii is a tour guide still looking for his big acting break.

The half-Scottish, half-Italian has long had an interest in acting. He has a background in medieval weapon training, which he describes as a great advantage over rival actors with all the epic films that come to Rome.

Madronii came to Rome four-and-a-half years ago after hearing of the renewed interest in big-budget film productions returning to Italy. “The Passion of the Christ” and “Gangs of New York” were two recent Hollywood films shot here.

Even though his break did not quite happen, Madronii has continued to try to make it as an actor in Rome. Madronii believes the real problem is there are only two types of production in Rome. Small-budget projects that won’t amount to anything, or big budget movie productions like “Gladiator” that only come around once a year. There is no middle ground for actors to have steady work, he says.

Most of Alistair’s jobs consist of epic productions like “Rome.” He has already received a call-back to the Cinecitta Studios set for added scenes. “I feel really good with this "Rome" gig. It has good opportunities for the future,” he says.

Madronii hopes he will be able to break out of the soldier parts and possibly do something more contemporary. But at the moment he has no complaints, and has high hopes for the future.

Madronii hopes the RomeFilmFest will bring renewed interest to Roman film production, and the promise of more roles. He still is cautious. In Italy, private funding for film production is comparatively meager. There are few medium-sized productions to help an actor work his way up.

Madronii is holding out for the next big movie to come to Rome. Vin Diesel is rumored to be mulling a new film this fall about the fall of Carthage. If true, to Madronii hopes to land a part. He believes his reputation as a solid actor is growing in Rome, and his ability as soldier doesn't hurt.

For now, Madronii continues to give his tours of the Vatican with hopes of one day making a big break. “I will continue to give never ending tours, as long as it helps me get closer to my dream," he says.

Vedere e mangiare bene: eating out at the FilmFest

By Chris Buonincontri

Popcorn and candy bars aside, dedicated movie-goers will need to eat well between the chaos of the red carpet and excitement of the silver screen. Fortunately, Rome is more than adequately equipped to satisfy the palette of even the pickiest critic. From pizza to pasta, trattorie to enoteche, across all tastes and price ranges, there will be something for everyone at the upcoming RomeFilmFest.

Certain eateries near the venues provide discounts and special fixed menus for accredited festival participants for the duration of the Cinemafest.

Walking north toward the Parco della Musica from the station at Via Flaminia, SicilianBocca provides good food in the style of authentic Sicilian cooking. Further north, closer to the auditorium, Cassamortaro has a less costly dinner menu recommended by the locals. Osteria del Frate is a favored local enoteca where, in addition to the wine, si puo mangiare bene; while Duke's, on nearby Viale Pavoli, boasts a full menu, reasonably priced for movie-goers. Finally, just down the road from the auditorium on Via Tiziano, La Greppia is a small place with a friendly atmosphere and good food.

Across the Villa Borghese, at the Via Veneto venue of the Festival, one can eat like the stars amidst one of the most upscale areas of Rome. Just inside the park itself, directly through the arches at the beginning of Via Veneto, is Cine Caffé, also known as Casina delle Rose (recently renovated just for the film festival). "Normally, it boasts a serene park atmosphere where one can dine on a full lunch, small snack, or gelato during the daytime," explains local Roman Alfredo DeNicola, 46. "Notably, while watching films on specially provided indoor screens." At night, however, the café becomes an expensive parkside restaurant. Top-quality cuisine and an elegant atmosphere equals "costa troppo", according to DeNicola.

At the start of Via Veneto is Harry's Bar, followed by Caffé della Dolce Vita further down the road. Both of which, although elegant and ideally located, are extremely expensive. Further on, is the traditional Hard Rock Café. Down Corso d'Italia at Piazza Fiume one can find "more reasonably priced, quality pizzerias," says local Letizia Deluca, 33. T-Bone, just south of the park, is one of the trendiest steakhouses in Rome, and Gusto, to the west near Piazza Augusto Imperatore, has a quality pizzeria, enoteca, and restaurant, suitable for all price ranges.


Documenting the Iraq War

By Fatin Sonbol

History is perspectives.

Thucydides wrote The Peloponnesian war from an Athenian perspective, glorifying Athenians figures and vilifying opposing Greek cities. Cleopatra was described as a prostitute by her enemies, the Romans. But the Egyptians regarded her as an influential woman.

Today, the war on Iraq is an important issue in our time. Each side will tell the story from their point-of-view, with inevitable bias. Director Deborah Scranton has a different plan of attack.

“The War Tapes”, winner of several festival awards, including "Best Documentary Film, Tribeca Film Festival", is a documentary starring three members of the U.S. National Guards who were given digital cameras and webcams to record their operation in Iraq. These soldiers, regarded by some as heroes, enemies to others, have a story to tell.

Three National Guards give us a glimpse of being a soldier at war. We see them as individuals that left behind loved ones and how they deal with the atrocities of war.

What goes on in the battlefield is a question we all would like to see answered.

Dalia Hassan, 30, is an Iraqi pharmacist living in the Emirates. He believes that American soldiers are no doubt suffering in Iraq. “But they are not the only ones” says Hassan. “It’s great that they made a documentary like this. No government interference, trying to convince us everything is great there. This is war! The soldiers and people that are there say how good or bad it’s going”.

It’s an original idea portraying a war arena that Hollywood didn’t take part in. Yet, many will no doubt ask the question “how real is this documentary?” Watch and judge for yourself.

Click here for the trailer.

Picture Perfect

Charlotte Savino reports on how to snap professional-quality photos in less-than-ideal conditions

“And in five minutes, the Chinese government arrested me and took my camera…” – Franco Fracassi.

From the deserts of Southwest Asia to the cobblestone streets of Rome, snapping the perfect picture is risky business. Perhaps this won’t be your story from the RomeFilmFest, but for journalist and documentary film maker, Franco Fracassi, getting arrested is all part of the job. With his expert opinion on renegade photography, you should be ready to capture all of the newsworthy events of the October gala.

Celebrity photography is a booming industry. Unless you live under a rock, you know the shots of Brangelina’s baby, Shiloh Novelle Jolie-Pitt, fetched an obscene amount of money, a reported $4.1 million. Imagine the possibilities for a nice pay-day a few pictures taken from the RomeFilmFest could reap. As a novice paparazzo, however, you’ll have more than Chinese police to watch out for; poor lighting, hoards of people, action, and distance will all work against your ambitions as a celebrity snapper.

Rome-ing the CinemaFest and Fracassi team up to bring you quick tips to optimize all of the photo-ops at the upcoming events:

♦No Light? No Problem:

“I never use a flash,” says Fracassi. Instead, he relies on the new genius of digital cameras. Unlike traditional film cameras, the digital medium allows you to change speeds and aperture automatically, making handling the changing light a breeze. If you are using film, Fracassi suggests 600 or 800 speed. What else makes a good low-light shot? A steady hand. “I could be a good sniper,” Fracassi says, swearing off tripods in favor of a sure grip, managing to keep still for two, three, and even four seconds for a crisp picture.

♦Don’t Worry, Be Blurry:

“I love pictures that show the action and movement”, notes Fracassi, “in a picture you can show movement in your message…it is much more useful to show this movement.” Lucky for you, celebrities work the red carpet posing for photographs. If you happen to catch a celebrity drunkenly running away from your prying camera lens, don't fret. The element of movement will add to the artistry and story of the snapshot. Think of the gritty shots of Kate Moss snorting coke in a trailer. Perfect? Hardly. But that raw quality gives edge and reality to the cover story.

♦No Such Thing as Personal Space:

There’s simply no substitute for a close-range photograph, says Fracassi, “it’s better to be as close as possible”. If anything, using a telephoto lens is more for visual effects. For anything over 200 meters, use a 400 lens or even 1000.

Don’t have lenses to attach to your pocketsize personal camera? Climb trees, flirt your way past velvet ropes, and take a no-holds-barred approach to getting the perfect picture – within the confines of the law of course, Fracassi has many stories of photography-based arrests, and containers in foreign countries (from the Middle East to Uganda) don’t sound like A-list fun.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Kidman fans wonder: will "Fur" fly?

By Liza Himelstein-O’Reilly

Dwarves, transvestites, sexually explicit photographs, oh, and Nicole Kidman too. These are but a few of the elements sure to excite the audience of Kidman's latest film, “Fur,” making its world premiere at RomeFilmFest on Friday.

Fur is directed by Steven Shainberg, no stranger to saucy cinematic fare; his 2002 film "Secretary," was a critical success. For Kidman, this is demanding role. Again she endures another one of her many physical transformations, getting rid of her golden locks in exchage for a darker and shorter look emulating the ground-breaking and controversial photographer, Diane Arbus. "Fur," which also stars Robert Downey Jr., is based on Patricia Bosworth's book, "Diane Arbus - A Biography." This is the first time the creative genius of Arbus will be portrayed in a major Hollywood production.

Diane Arbus, (pronounced Dee-ann), was the daughter of a wealthy businessman and sister of a well-known poet, Howard Nemerov. Arbus chose to shake up her cookie-cutter life and create a new path. Her mentor, Lisette Model, helped develop her documentary-style eye. "Freaks," as Arbus referred to them, were a point of intrigue.

"It was one of the first things I photographed and it had a terrific kind of excitement for me" she is quoted as saying in the definitive Arbus retrospective "Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph." Her photographs are bold if not unsettling; Arbus has the unique power to take something commonplace such as twins and add an uneasy feeling to the viewer.

The film captures some of the emotional torment Arbus dealt with in trying to break free from the high expectations of a woman from a wealthy family; she committed suicide in 1971.

According to Eric J. Lyman of "The Hollywood Reporter,” the Cinema Fest organizers selection of “Fur” is not without controversy. This fictional depiction of Arbus' life could finally give justice to Arbus' talents.

At the very least, we will get a snapshot of her world of misfits and genius.

Cruising the Cinemafest Circuit

By Erin Kuschner

You’ve seen the signs everywhere: "Cinemafest di Roma, 2006". Just like the rest of Rome, you want in on the action. Yet between the movies, exhibitions and after-parties, how do you know which events are worth your time?

This concise, two-day guide will have you experiencing the Rome Cinemafest like a true movie buff.

Saturday, Oct. 14:

Opening weekend will be packed, so plan on getting to the Auditorium early. “The first days are very crowded,” says Roxana Rahimi, a Cinemafest official. “It is important to arrive at least 30 minutes in advance, even if you already have a ticket.”

Kick off the festival with a viewing of “The War Tapes” at 4 p.m. in the Metropolitan 1 theater. This 2006 documentary is the first war movie entirely filmed by soldiers, and captures the solidarity and terror of troops fighting in Iraq. Afterwards, check out the art exhibition next to the Auditorium’s bookstore, featuring works of art photography and photojournalism. Make it back in time to see “Finding Forrester” at 6:30 p.m. in the Metropolitan 3 theater. Starring Sean Connery and Rob Brown, this drama details the friendship between a writing prodigy and an isolated author. Grab a bite to eat at the Auditorium restaurant, and then it’s off to party like the stars! A quick cab ride away is Art Café, a chic club with great music that will have you feeling like an A-list celebrity.

Sunday, Oct. 15:

Start your afternoon at Villa Borghese, only a 30-minute walk from the Auditorium. A beautiful oasis in this busy city, the Borghese parks are a great way to get some fresh air before making your way to the cinema. Today’s highlight is a 7 p.m. showing of “The Departed”. Located in the Santa Cecilia theater, this 2006 film by Martin Scorsese is a thrilling drama about a rivalry between the Massachusetts police force and an Irish-American gang. By now it should be time to grab a late Italian dinner. Piazza Euclide, a 15 minute walk down Via Guidubaldo del Monte, boasts a number of low-key restaurants. To end the night on an Oscar-worthy note, try “Euclide” bar/restaurant across from S. Cuore Immacolato Church.

It is impossible to fit a week’s worth of festivities into 48 hours, but with this guide you’ll be sure to make the most of RomeFilmFest. After a weekend full of great movies, culture, and food, there is only one thing left to say – “That’s a wrap!”

Ordinary film buffs with an extraordinary task

By Alexandra Capriotti

This isn’t the Venice Film Festival.

Instead of black-clad directors viewing films with critical sneers, 50 wide-eyed members of the movie-viewing public hold the deciding votes for the top awards at the RomeFilmFest. The People’s Jury will consider the 14 top films of the festival and will crown the Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Film awards, honors that carry a 200,000 euro cash prize.

It was no easy task to make the People’s Jury. A committee headed by famed Italian director Ettore Scola took weeks to personally interview 300 candidates. Narrowing down the jury, he selected everyday Romans, from gli adolescenti to i nonni, teachers, students and retirees too.

Their diversity of career, age and gender is bridged only by their love of the cinema.

And their test? They had to assign and discuss a literary award with Scola’s committee. It wasn’t their knowledge of film that was tested, but rather their ability to work on a team and to stand boldly by their own opinion while respecting others. Scola’s committee chose 40; monthly cinema magazine “Ciak” and MTV Italia selected the rest.

Organizers at the festival chose a People’s Jury because they are determined to focus the event on the tastes of the public. They stressed to the Italian News Agency ANSA that the Rome festival has different aims than the Venice Film Festival. “There is space for a festival that defines itself as an event with a populist nature, one that puts the public at its center. European cinema needs new lifeblood,” festival president Goffredo Bettini told reporters. Mayor Walter Veltroni, another ardent supporter of the festival's communal aspect, told reporters that it aims to “involve the entire city” rather than create another film industry schmoozefest.

Not everyone is happy with the decision to allow everyday cinemaphiles the chance to determine the big cash awards. Most every film festival have jury panels made exclusively of top actors and directors to decide the main awards. A People’s Choice Award is usually a separate, lesser category. Barbara Pullera, a long-time employee of the Cinema Alcazar in Trastevere, says, “It would be better to have a jury of both regular citizens and professionals in the film industry. If you just have one or the other, the vote will not be representative of everyone.”

Long after the festival closes, after the awards have been given out, attention no doubt will linger over the People’s Jury. Getting 50 Italians to agree on anything is no easy feat. When there are 600,000 euros on the line, we're all critics.

Lights! Cameras! Action! Rome!

By Atalia Howe

Tipping back a glass of prosecco. Strolling through one of the most magical cities in the world. Enjoying the hottest new film releases -- and helping revive Italian cinema? That’s right, from Oct. 13 to 21, the RomeFilmFest will hit the streets of Rome. It's an event with with lofty ambitions: to bring the cinema spotlight back to the Eternal City.

Be prepared: this will not be any ordinary film festival. The goal is to get the entire city involved by offering the public an array of activities – artistic and literary exhibitions, concerts, shows on fashion and up to 20 screens across the city. The aim is to provide the public with the knowledge and most importantly, the delight, of great international cinema, both past and present.

The event was not without controversy, however. Weeks before the curtain was due to rise, tensions flaired between the upstart Rome and its more established neighbor Venice. Rome's decision to open a festa six weeks after the Venice Film Festival drew accusations that the Rome organizers were stepping on some precious toes.

The awkwardness beween the two cities still lingers. The comparisons won't fade either. “Unlike the Venice Film Festivalm the Rome Cinema Fest incorporates all aspects of film, from directing to acting to simply being a part of a public that enjoys going to the cinema," says Roberto Scarpetti, a young aspiring director from Rome. "Forty years ago, directors such as Fellini, Bertolucci and de Sica made a name for Italy in cinema. But in more recent years, Italian cinema has faded out of the film scene. The Rome Cinema Fest is an opportunity for people to once again become aware of what Italy has to offer the world.”

In collaboration with the Tribeca Film Festival of New York, the event will kick-off at Auditorium on the 13th and continue for nine days. Via Veneto, once the prime location to get a glimpse of the Italian jet-set, will undergo a complete transformation for the festival. And with stars such as Nicole Kidman, George Clooney and Sean Connery roaming the streets, and a line-up of over one hundred films by some of the most respected directors in the industry and many up-and-comers as well, this will surely be an unforgettable event.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Welcome to Rome-ing the CinemaFest

Rome-ing the CinemaFest is a blog written by demanding film fans for demanding film fans. It is the work of 16 students from John Cabot University here in Rome. Over the next week to ten days, our crack staff of student journalists will cover every facet of Rome's inaugural film fest. We will answer your most pressing questions: what to watch?, where to go?, what to wear?, where to eat, and how to crash that VIP gala with little more than charm and nerve?