The highs and lows of the Rome Film Fest 2015

16 - 24 October 2015 at the Auditorium Parco della Musica

One of the earliest changes announced by Antonio Monda as new artistic director of Rome's annual film festival was that the 2015 edition would no longer be a cinema “festival” but would instead return to its origins as a “Festa del Cinema”. In truth, the Rome Film Festival has always felt like a festa, with its tradition of showcasing major Hollywood movies alongside lesser known art house films and documentaries, with intimate encounters with actors and directors a must-see staple of the programme every year. What was palpably clear right from the start of this year's 10th anniversary edition of the kermesse, however, was that the well publicised decimation of the festival budget meant that there would be very few big names on the red carpet with enough star power to draw the crowds witnessed in previous editions.

Certainly, day one got off to a rocky start when Joel Coen and Frances McDormand, the first highly anticipated guests of the “Close Encounters” series of on stage interviews with Antonio Monda, descended from their limousine and stormed, long-faced, up the red carpet like two bats out of hell, with ne'er a glance at the handful of fans who had been patiently waiting for their arrival in the hope that they would stop and sign autographs. As much as I enjoyed the actual encounter, it was undeniably soured by having witnessed the couple's snubbing of their fans, an attitude that was only reconfirmed when they rushed from the stage immediately at the end of the event ignoring the admirers that rushed the stage to greet them. The big event on day two was a much publicised encounter with British actor Jude Law. The sold-out event was an entertaining journey through Law's career and the actor seemed in a relaxed mood as he chatted with Monda, but again fans were left disappointed when the star made no appearance at all on the red carpet and was whisked rapidly off stage at the end of the interview. No red carpet, no party. Thankfully, Ellen Page braved torrential rain on day three to greet fans, take selfies and sign autographs before the screening of Freeheld.

Antonio Monda, Dario Argento and William Friedkin #RomaFF10
Donna Tartt, Antonio Monda and Wes Anderson
After a low key first weekend, however, day four saw some wonderful on stage encounters – author Donna Tartt joined director Wes Anderson (who was swamped by hundreds of young fans along the red carpet) in a sparkling conversation about Italian cinema, with both writer and filmmaker clearly delighting in each other's company, whilst old friends Italian horror movie maestro Dario Argento chatted with Academy Award winning director William Friedkin about each other's work in cinema and opera. The Walk 3D was the Hollywood movie of the evening – neither Zemeckis, nor Gordon-Levitt made the trip to Rome, but what could be more thrilling than meeting Philippe Petit, the original Man on Wire himself, along the red carpet?!

Other personal highlights of the cinefest were the Close Encounter with the brilliant Todd Haynes, in Rome to present the mesmerizing Carol; the conversation chaired by Mario Sesti with Chilean director, screenwriter, and producer Pablo Larraín before the screening of the utterly stunning film El Club; and finally, the intimate and rewarding Masterclass with the director Paul Weitz, who discussed his hugely enjoyable movie Grandma with Claudio Masenza as part of Alice nella Città, an independent and parallel section of the Rome Film Fest, dedicated to young adults.

Paul Weitz and Claudio Masenza #RomaFF10

Here's hoping that next year's festival/festa will see the return of a little more Hollywood glamour, and the fun and excitement of earlier editions, and most importantly, will attract cinema goers of all persuasions, not just film buffs and cinephiles.