Al Pacino in conversation at The International Rome Film Festival

The road to this year's Rome film festival – now in its third edition – has been a somewhat rocky one with the controversial resignation in April of its president Goffredo Bettini and a great deal of discussion about shifting the focus of the festival away from glamorous A-list stars and Hollywood movies to European, and specifically Italian, cinema. The most notable change was that of its name – what was once the Rome Film Fest became The International Rome Film Festival – all rather ironic in the light of the organisers' desire to give the event a stronger Italian identity.

As it happens, the festival opened yesterday with one of the greatest international stars of all time (albeit of Italian descent) and a true Hollywood icon – Al Pacino – who was presented with the Marc'Aurelio Alla Carriera, an Acting Award given to the Actors Studio, of which he is one of the presidents.

After a lengthy stroll up the red carpet to cheers and scenes of general pandemonium outside the Auditorium Parco della Music, Al Pacino then spent the next couple of hours in conversation in Sala Sinopoli, where he chatted about his acting career and working techniques. With Pacino's wry sense of humour, enormous humility and generosity of spirit this was a wonderfully entertaining encounter. The audience were treated to some classic moments from some of his defining roles kicking off with Dog Day Afternoon, followed by Scarecrow, Scarface, Carlito's Way, The Merchant of Venice, Looking for Richard, The Godfather and The Devil's Advocate, and finally - with a respectful nod to Italian legend Vittorio Gassman's interpretation in Dino Risi's Profumo Di Donna - Scent of a Woman. Pacino discussed each film in turn and then answered questions from the audience – in answer to one in question about achieving iconic status in Hollywood the actors he named as being true greats in the younger generation working today were...Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The evening was rounded off with two pieces previously unseen in Italy – a 7 minute clip from Al Pacino's current project as writer and director - Salomaybe? This was followed by Chinese Coffee, also directed by Pacino, a bittersweet film that felt more like an intimate play, beautifully acted by Al Pacino and the late Jerry Orbach who are on screen together for almost the entire film. In fact, Pacino introduced it as his “off-off-Broadway movie”.

Festival del cinema di Roma © Alessandro Serranò 127
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