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ROME – “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” ignited the Rome Film Festival where thousands of fans mobbed the red carpet, some after camping out in sleeping bags overnight outside the Auditorium Parco della Musica theatre to see Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, all of whom seemed in fine fetter, as they pranced down the catwalk.

Rome marked the third stop on the “Catching Fire” victory, tour after its Nov. 12 London world preem. But it was the pic’s festival bow, preceded by a packed presser during which Jennifer Lawrence, prompted by an unimaginative question, sounded off against body shaming, a recurring leitmotiv with her lately, but very eloquently expressed in the food-loving Eternal City.

Lawrence recounted about appearing in unspecified films “where the producers would tell me to lose weight, and I was so young, and that was such a painful thing to hear at such a young age.” 

“There are lots of filmmakers who have this idea of an unobtainable perfect body image, and they put those unobtainable pressures on people. And people are watching us actors and  looking at a body and comparing themselves to photoshopped pictures and celebrities who have personal trainers,” Lawrence lamented.

“And I feel like the media needs to take responsibility for the fact that we have a society and a younger generation when we talk about each other the way that we do in all the wrong ways.” 

“It seems like all the values revolve around the wrong thing: I’m so tired of hearing women call other women ‘fat’,” she said.

As for “Catching Fire,” comments revolved around the way the pic handled its underlying theme of violence and also about how great it is for such a big blockbuster to have substance.

Helmer Francis Lawrence said making the film was very exciting to him because of the source material in Suzanne Collins’ dystopian young adult novels.

“She had an idea to tell a story about the consequences of war and the consequences of violence to teen-agers. But she didn’t treat them like children, and I think that helped,” he said.

After teen-agers really started to soak it up, it then crossed over into the adult world, the helmer noted. “But the amazing thing is that it became this phenomenon and we have this ability to tell these stories that people around the world are going to see in droves. And for it actually to have some meaning and be something, and have reflections in the world that we live in could not be more exciting,” he enthused. 

“To find a story like this that has such a mass appeal and is such a complex story with such core values and themes throughout about love and family and fighting for what you believe in, it’s a rare thing,” agreed thesp Josh Hutcherson.

Producer Nina Jacobson said “the most important thing about these movies is they are about the effect violence has on human beings who are forced to endure it.”

“I think that as a filmmaker Francis is very sophisticated and emotionally attuned to taking advantage of this incredible cast and really letting the audience experience the violence through their eyes. One of the benefits of having a cast with this degree of talent is that you can get more power from watching them experience the violence than you can from seeking the violence itself,” she said.

Meanwhile, the thousands of kids outside were killing time singing and dancing to Daft Punk, making posters and banners, and trading their favourite quotes from Suzanne Collins’ books.

When the stars arrived they went into the biggest frenzy the Rome fest, now at its eighth edition, has ever seen.