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Kids pics take focus at Rome Fest

Fest Traveler: Rome Film Festival

Like Berlin, and unlike Venice, Rome has a separate section dedicated to youth cinema, featuring a mix of meticulously selected titles, largely by tyro helmers, in addition to more mainstream goods, such as a sneak peek of the latest “Twilight” installment.

The fest calls it Alice in the City, in homage to Wim Wenders’ cult “Alice in the Cities” road movie, and the section has gained traction as a key component of Rome’s big-league ambitions.

Interestingly, Berlin plays prominently in Alice’s birth, section topper Gianluca Giannelli is quick to point out. “Our concept is completely based on Berlin’s Generation; they are the guys who got us started,” he says.

Three years before the rest of the Rome fest Giannelli knocked on their door, and Berlin programmers, including Thomas Heiler, showed him the ropes.

Giannelli and current Alice programmer Fabia Bettini then set up a kiddie event in 2003, subsequently folded into the Rome Film Festival.

Having Berlin’s Generation as their model taught them not to restrict their search for movies within the confines of cinema made specifically for kids. Accordingly, Giannelli’s prime scouting spots are Sundance, Tribeca, Toronto and Montreal.

An especially significant title for the Alice topper is “En el nombre de la hija” from Ecuador’s Tania Hermida, a humor-laced family-drama set in 1976 about a 9-year-old who sparks a battle between her socialist father and Catholic grandmother. Hot pic, being sold by Germany’s the Match Factory, is having its market preem in Rome where it launches internationally in the Alice competish.

Giannelli is particularly pleased to have Belgian helmer Bavo Defurne’s gay adolescence drama “North Sea Texas,” which he says is certain to create a stir in Catholic Italy.

Also from Belgium are Geoffrey Enthoven’s “Come as You Are,” a seriocomedy about three young special-needs men on a road trip to lose their virginity, and Vincent Lannoo’s English-language “Little Glory” about a 19-year-old dropout, played by Canada’s Cameron Bright, trying to take care of his younger sister after their parents’ death. Bright will also preview clips from “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part I,” in which he is featured.

The fest presents the Italo preem of Steven Spielberg’s 3D “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn,” which launches in Europe ahead of its U.S. release. And Disney’s “The Lion King 3D” launches in Italy via Alice, despite Giannelli’s initial reluctance to play host. “It’s the classic family movie that can represent Rome’s populist bent, so I agreed,” he says.

But he’s certainly more excited about Alice showing footage of Martin Scorsese’s “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” based on Brian Selznick’s bestselling children’s book. Scorsese and Selznick might attend fest to hold an onstage conversation.

“We want Rome to become increasingly known as a fest with lots of interaction between movies and the audience, especially with kids who are often a lot more stimulating for directors to talk to than the press,” Giannelli says.

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