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  • Writer's pictureBrendan Parr

Recapping Rome’s Film Festival


The 18th annual Rome Film Fest boasted a catalogue of discussions, awards and feature presentations this October.

Lasting just over a week between Wednesday, Oct. 18 and Sunday, Oct. 29, the Festival featured an array of both Italian and International films.

Hosted in the Auditorium Parco della Musica, the event kicked off with the screening of “C’e Ancora Domani” (“There’s Always Tomorrow”) by first-time filmmaker Paola Cortellesi. The film follows housewife in Delia in a post-war Rome, attempting to up her class status while escaping the confines of an abusvie relationship.


The first film from both Cortellesi and the festival, “Ce’e Ancora Domani” set the season’s tone — one of irony, respect and progress. A theme further cemented by the Festival’s official protagonist of the year, Anna Magnani.

Famed for her work during Italy's post-war film renaissance, Magnani cemented herself in classics such as “Rome, Open City” and “Mamma Roma.” The actress then gained international renown for breaking into the American film scene, earning an Academy Award for “The Rose Tattoo” and being nominated for “Wild is the Wind.”

Filippo Barbagallo additionally presents his first feature with “Troppo Azzurro” ("Too Blue”). Depicting a man stuck in arrested development (played by Barbagallo) “Troppo Azzuro” shows its protagonist torn between the safety youth and necessity to grow up.

Both Cortellesi and Barbagallo’s films embody evolution, but from differing perspectives. Cortellesi writes a woman trapped in her social standing and longing to break free. In contrast, Barbagallo focuses on a man who refuses to change but is inexplicably driven to. One views progress as a valuable oppurtunity, where the other sees it as a frightening inevitability.

The Alice nella Città section likewise added fresh, creative voices this season. Dedicated to promoting films from younger filmmakers, the section emphasized woman-made and woman-focused narratives this Festival with the likes of “To Leslie” and “How to Have Sex.”

Premiering earlier this year “Past Lives” has made festival rounds since January, and deservingly so. Debuting from Korean filmmaker Celine Song, the film follows semi-authobiographical narrative detailing a lifelong relationship from childhood to adulthood.

“Past Lives” resumes its festival streak in Rome, raking in acclaim and award nominations with current buzz for a potential Academy Award nod.

Contributing to the Festival’s introspective focus were the Career Achievement Awards, received by Italian actress and filmmaker Isabella Rossellini and Japanease composer Shigeru Umebayashi.


Rossellini (“Blue Velvet,” “Animals Distract Me”) and Umebayashi (“House of Flying Daggers,” “In the Mood for Love”) both led masterclass discussions to coincide with their awards, outlining their journeys from non traditional origins to careers of regard. Program blocks were set in tandem to panels to celebrate the each’s best works.

Similar tribute blocks for Italian filmmaker Dario Argento and French director Michel Gondry were also mapped into the Festival. Most notably “Profondo Rosso” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” represented each respectively with a handful of others to commemorate the creators.

The Festival showcased a variety of debut features and honorary presentations, but it’s also been a mark for already established creatives.

Isabel Coixet’s “Un Amor” is the latest release in the filmmaker’s 40-year career. Based on the Sara Messa novel of the same name, “Un Amore” details an Italian translator’s wanton relationship with a neighbor in exchange for shelter and catharsis.

Hayao Miyazaki’s hotly anticipated “The Boy and The Heron” was also given special preview. Being Miyazaki’s last Studio Ghibli feature (totalling in 12 with the Japanease animation compay), the film has marketed itself purely on mystique. With wide release set for December, the lack of commercial advertising for “The Boy and The Heron” shows a confidence that word of mouth and Miyazaki’s name will carry it to success.

Upcoming studio releases from both A24 and Dreamworks were also treated with spotlight. Premiering at Sundance and set to release in November, A24’s “Dream Scenario” stars Nicholas Cage and plots a man oddly finding stardom by being present in people’s dreams. In Celebration of Dreamworks’ 25th studio anniversary, the November-set “Trolls 3” was likewise given select pre-screenings.

The 2023 Rome Film Fest highlighted unique voices and celebrated legacy creatives. Dozens of incredible films premiered, entering critic and audience polls. While competitions are ongoing, there’s no doubt each entry brags a artistic vision worthy of recognition.

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