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Feminine touch for Rome festival

Published on 17/10/2009

Rome — George Clooney may look out of place at this year’s Rome film festival which has lined up Hollywood big-hitters Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren as it concentrates on women in film.

But Clooney, Richard Gere, Anthony Hopkins and Colin Farrell will provide the male muscle on Rome’s red carpet for the festival, which started Thursday and runs through to October 23.

"The thread running through the festival will be the central role of women in contemporary cinema," said festival director Piera Detassis.

On top of Streep — who will get a special award for her life’s work — and Mirren, Carla Bruni’s sister Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg will be key draws at the fourth Rome festival where the jury, led by US "Amadeus" director Milos Forman, will consider 14 films competing for the Marc’Aurelio prizes.

The international list sets new talents against old masters: Lebanese Dima El-Horr’s "Chaque Jour Est Une Fete" focusing on three women whose partners are in prison, competes with German veteran Margarethe Von Trotta’s "Vision" about a convent Mother Superior who has strange visions.

Mirren and Christopher Plummer star in "The Last Station," the story of Leo Tolstoy’s dying days which is in competition for best movie.

The festival opens with Oscar-winner Danis Tanovic’s "Triage" on the post-traumatic stress suffered by a war photographer, Farrell, returning from Kurdistan.

Cedric Kahn represents France with "Les Regrets," with Bruni Tedeschi and Yvan Attal. Clooney is the star of "Up In The Air" a comedy about a stressed out executive by Jason Reitman, which is also in competition for a prize.

Attal’s wife Gainsbourg follows her controversial Cannes entry, "Antichrist," starring in the out-of-competition world premiere of "The City of Your Final Destination," a James Ivory production with Hopkins and Laura Linney.

Gere will be in Rome to promote his latest movie, "Hachiko: A Dog’s Story" by Lasse Hallstroem, about a college professor’s bond with an abandoned dog. It is also not competing for prizes.

"We have not forgotten comedy," Detassis said, but "the main inspiration was taken from the period we’re currently going through,," pointing to serious funny films such as "Up In The Air" and the latest Coen brothers movie, "A Serious Man," which is also not in competition.

Former Rome mayor, Walter Veltroni, created the festival in 2005 aiming to become a major draw on the international calendar. But this year the event is a day shorter, 14 films are in competition compared to 20 in 2008 and the budget has been cut to 12 million euros (17.5 million dollars) compared to 15.5 million last year.

Other jury members include Algerian novelist Assia Djebar, Austrian actress Senta Berger, Italian director Gabriele Muccino and Russian filmmaker Pavel Lounguine.

The audience also gets a vote, rating each film in competition to decide the feature worthy of the public’s award.