Rome Film Festival 2012 – Report 3: The Awards

The seventh edition of the International Rome Film Festival wrapped up last Saturday when the last in-competition film – The Motel Life – premiered and Larry Clark's Marfa Girl (ICS mini-review here) was awarded the Marco Aurelio d'Oro for Best Film.

Larry Clark wins the Marco Aurelio d'Oro for Best Film for his Marfa Girl

The closing day of the festival was filled with difficult situations and disappointments that garnered artistic director Marco Müller some of the worst press he's ever gotten, after several years of being a successful master of ceremonies at the Venice Film Festival. The first big shock came in the early afternoon when a scheduled screening of the French film The Dandelions, in competition for the Alice nella Città youth award, was canceled at the last minute and replaced with a screening of the animated movie Kirikou and the Men and the Women. The reason behind this? Apparently the movie featured a couple of strong sex-related words that disturbed the teachers and parents attending the premiere with their students and children, so it was decided to cancel any further screenings of the movie. One wonders how this was not seen as a possible issue six months ago when the movie was selected, but suddenly became a problem thirty minutes before the show, forcing dozens of accredited reporters, as well as ticket-buying viewers, to choose between a completely different movie or the hassle of seeking a refund.

The problems continued into the evening and during the closing ceremony, which was supposed to be streamed live for reporters on one of the biggest screens of the festival. Unfortunately, the movie scheduled for that same screen before the live feed was placed at the wrong time and ran too long, so that a couple of hundred reporters, including this ICS writer, were locked between a closed door and a closed stairway for over an hour waiting for the movie to be over, while the awards ceremony went on.

A scene from E la chiamano estate by Paolo Franchi

The peak of this unfortunate closing day came when the awards for Best Director and Best Actress were announced. Both awards went to the Italian movie E la chiamano estate – They Call it Summer, directed by Paolo Franchi and starring aging and lifeless Italian beauty queen Isabella Ferrari. The movie, a pretentious Shame knock-off with ridiculous and sexist dialogue, gimmicky direction and horrible soap-ish cinematography, was universally panned by the critics after one of the most unintentionally hilarious press screenings ever held in the theaters of the Rome fest. And, apparently, it was also hated by most of the Jury, as jury member P.J. Hogan openly said during the ceremony, but they still decided to give it two major awards simply because Franchi's vision, although a failure, was still considered original and bold, as it angered most of the audience. If you think that's a stupid reason to reward an awful movie, you're not alone.

Paolo Franchi and Isabella Ferrari win Best Director and Best Actress for E la chiamano estate

The remaining awards went to The Motel Life's Polsky brothers for their screenplay and Hand in Hand's Jérémie Elkaïm as Best Actor (ICS mini-review here), the latter being one of the rare occasions when the Rome fest has awarded a comedic performance, and a very fine one at that.

The Polsky brothers win Best Screenplay for The Motel Life;
Jérémie Elkaïm wins Best Actor for Hand in Hand, directed by Valerie Donzelli

The Motel Life, directed by Alan and Gabe Polsky, also went on to win the BNL Audience Award. The story of two low-life brothers, brilliantly played by Stephen Dorff and Emile Hirsch, moved the Roman audience with its brutal sincerity. The movie is well written for the most part, very well acted, and uses some gorgeous hand-drawn animated scenes to show the dreams and hopes of the two characters, who are both artists in their own way (one draws excellent cartoons, the other is a wonderful storyteller), but who never got a chance to make something of their art – or of their lives – due to bad luck and bad decisions. While the ending dwells excessively on the most melodramatic aspects of the story, the movie still manages to find some truth in this classic broken-American-Dream adventure, even though it doesn't feel as lived-in and immediate as Larry Clark's best film-winning Marfa Girl.

A scene from The Motel Life by Alan and Gabe Polsky