Jason Reitman’s zippy comedy “Juno,” about a sharp-tongued 16-year-old dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, won the top prize at the Rome Film Festival, which ended Saturday.
Fest showed considerable growth in its second edition, though some kinks still need to be smoothed out.
After making a splash in Telluride and Toronto, “Juno” scooped Rome’s rich E200,000 ($287,000) Marcus Aurelius prize, voted by a jury of 50 regular moviegoers of all ages from all over Europe.
“This is our first trip overseas with it, so we had no idea how non-English speakers would react,” said Reitman.
Fox Searchlight pic, starring Ellen Page (“Hard Candy”) as a bright, hyperarticulate and highly resourceful high schooler whose adoption plan hits a snag, will be released Stateside on Dec. 5. It will go out in Italy in February.
During the closing ceremony, Reitman paid tribute to the film’s screenwriter, Diablo Cody, who was with him on the Auditorium Parco della Musica stage.
The special jury prize went to Iranian helmer Abolfazl Jalili’s drama “Hafez,” about the complications that ensue when a Muslim theologist falls in love with a young woman he is tutoring — despite the fact that the two have never even made eye contact.
Heading the jury, Oscar-winning Bosnian helmer Danis Tanovic (“No Man’s Land”) praised the fact that nods in Rome are decided by civilians, which is why he chose not to vote himself, he said.
The competish thesping statuettes went to Chinese actress Jiang Wenli for her role as a frustrated artist in Chang Wei Gu’s “And the Spring Comes,” and to Serbia’s Rade Serbedzija, who plays a kindly archaeologist in Jeremy Podeswa’s Holocaust drama “Fugitive Pieces.”
Among other prizes outside the main competish and decided by different juries, U.S. helmer Joseph Greco’s first feature, “Canvas,” about a boy coming to terms with a schizophrenic mother, won the Alice the City K-12 section; Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild” drew the nod among the Premiere galas; and Aussie docu “Forbidden Lies,” by Anna Broinowski, took the Cult docu prize.
After debuting last year amid doubts that the world needed another film fest and some testiness with Venice, the Rome fest this year consolidated its status as a high-profile metropolitan event combining local populism, quality and international relevance. Ticket sales were up by 7,000 to 62,000.
The number of buyers and sellers registered at the four-day Business Street rose from 440 to 600, proving Rome has begun to fill a gap in European and indie distribution left open by the demise of Milan’s Mifed mart.
Packed with pols and toppers of the fest’s many sponsor companies, the opening and closing ceremonies lacked the cinematic gravitas one expects at a major international event, as did some of the parties.
That said, this second edition proved Rome has gained a prominent position on the festival map, one that Italian film folks, all of whom are based in Rome, are happy about.
“It’s like a happy child. Let’s try to nourish it and make it grow right,” said Valerio De Paolis, topper of BIM Distribuzione, which launched Francis Ford Coppola’s divisive “Youth Without Youth,” probably the fest’s most talked-about title.
And the RomeFilmFest second edition winners are…
“Juno” – Jason Reitman, U.S.
Ellen Page — “Juno,” U.S.
Rade Serbedzija — “Fugitive Pieces,” Canada-Greece
SPECIAL JURY AWARD
“Hafez” – Abolfaz Jalili, Iran-Japan
ALICE IN THE CITY (CHILDREN’S SIDEBAR) K-12 SECTION
“Canvas” – Joseph Greco, U.S.
YOUNG AUDIENCES SECTION
“Meet Mr. Daddy” – Kwang Su Park, South Korea
ALICE IN THE CITY BOOK SECTION
“Ragazzi di Camorra” – Pina Varriale
NON OFFICIAL PRIZES
FASTWEB PRIZE FOR THE PREMIERE SECTION
“Into The Wild” – Sean Penn, U.S.
L.A.R.A. AWARD FOR ITALIAN PERFORMER
Giuseppe Battiston — “The Right Distance,” Italy
CULT NETWORK AWARD FOR DOCUMENTARY
“Forbidden Lie$” – Anna Broinowsli, Australia
ENEL CUORE PRIZE FOR BEST SOCIAL DOCUMENTARY
“War/Dance” – Sean Fine and Andrea Nix-Fine, U.S.
MINI PRIZE FOR BEST EUROPEAN PROJECT IN NEW CINEMA NETWORK
Slawomir Fabiki for “Bonobo Jingo,” Poland