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Political pics took the top prizes at the Rome Film Festival where Italo helmer Giacomo Battiato’s Bosnia-set ethnic cleansing drama “Resolution 819” scooped the audience nod, while Afghan helmer Siddiq Barmak’s “Opium War” was the crix pick.

Titled after the U.N. resolution drafted to guarantee the safety of the Muslim population of Srebrenica in 1995, “Resolution 819” is a hard-hitting expose of the tragic massacres which followed, punctuated by an Ennio Morricone score. This most popular pic with the fest’s regular ticket holders won the 75,000 Euros ($95,000) Marcus Aurelius nod.

Tragicomic “Opium War,” which turns on the culture clash between two U.S. soldiers lost in Afghanistan and some poppy farmers they encounter, is Barmak’s follow-up to the acclaimed “Osama” and Afghanistan’s current foreign Oscar contender.

After vacillating in May due to political turmoil, the Rome fest pulled off a perfectly passable edition which, while it did not boost its international standing, reaffirmed the Eternal City extravaganza’s raison d’etre for regular Romans. Ticket sales were up 4.5 percent to 115,000 tickets sold during the ten-day event.

The fest’s informal Business Street mart also stayed buoyant with about 300 international buyers and sellers flocking to Rome’s Via Veneto; on par with last year. While no news of major deals surfaced, Rome has by now earned its slot on the European calendar as a small but significant bazaar between Toronto and AFM.

As for the future, recently installed new fest prexy Gian Luigi Rondi said he has plans to reconfigure Rome, starting with its market side. Rondi will probably try to transform Business Street into a more structured affair, with proper booths for dealmaking. At present most meetings are held on the Hotel Bernini Krug terrace where champagne flows freely. Other upcoming changes will regard the names of the fest’s five section toppers whose mandates expire this year.

Also, Rome’s 2009 dates, October 16-25, will shorten to just over one month its contentious gap with the Venice Film Festival, which next year will run September 2-12.

But first, its remains to be seen whether Rome’s new major Gianni Alemanno will continue to support the fest, though, given this edition’s high turnout, it’s likely he will.

COMPETITION

AUDIENCE AWARD

FILM

“Resolution 819” — Giacomo Battiato, Italy

CRITICS’ PRIZE

“Opium War” — Siddiq Barmak, Afghanistan

ACTRESS

Donatella Finocchiaro — “Galantuomini,” Italy

ACTOR

Bohdan Stupka — “With A Warm Heart,” Poland, Ukraine

SPECIAL MENTIONS

“Northern Land” — Joao Botelho, Portugal

“With a Little Help From Myself” — Francois Dupeyron, France

ALICE IN THE CITY (CHILDREN’S SIDEBAR)

8-12 SECTION

“Magique!” — Philippe Muyl, France, Belgium

13-17 SECTION

“Summer” — Kenneth Glenaan, UK