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Stephen Daldry’s ‘Trash’ Bags Top Rome Fest Nod

British director Stephen Daldry’s “Trash,” about a trio of charismatic kids living next to a Rio garbage dump who stumble upon evidence certain to bring down a corrupt politico, took the top nod at the recently reconfigured Rome Film Festival where, instead of a jury, prizes are decided by paying ticket holders, to serve as a testing ground for distributors.

Trash,” a South American answer of sorts to “Slumdog Millionaire,” world-preemed in Rio. Scripted by Richard Curtis, it features turns by Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara, alongside a mostly Brazilian cast. Universal will be releasing worldwide.

Daldry’s previous three pics, “Billy Elliot,” “The Hours,” and “The Reader,” all earned Oscar noms.

The top nod in the auteur-driven Cinema d’Oggi section went to prominent Chinese theater director Xu Ang’s “12 Citizens,” inspired by Sydney Lumet’s 1957 Hollywood classic “Twelve Angry Men.”

The Mondo Genre section prize went to “Haider,” a 2014 Hindi drama directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, the third installment in his series based on Shakespearean dramas, a contempo adaptation of Hamlet, set against the Kashmir conflicts of 1995.

Winner of the Cinema Italia section was feature film “Fino a qui tutto bene,” a youth drama by Roan Johnson; while the Italian docu nod went to “Looking for Kadija” by Francesco G. Raganato.

The top prize for best first work – in this case decided upon by a jury headed by U.S. helmer Jonathan Nossiter – went to Andrea Di Stefano’s “Escobar: Paradise Lost” toplining Benicio del Toro as the Columbian drug lord. A special mention went to atmospheric drama “Last Summer” by Lorenzo Guerra Seragnoli, shot entirely on a boat.

“The Road Within” by debut U.S. writer-director Gren Wells, one of Variety‘s 10 Directors to Watch, took the top prize in Rome’s parallel Alice Nella Città section dedicated to films for children and adolescents. The Nossiter-led jury awarded the best first work nod from that section to producer Laura Hastings-Smith for “X+Y” by Morgan Matthews, starring Asa Butterfield as a math whiz.

The DOC/IT Award for  Italian docu, decided by a jury, went to “Largo Baracche,” by Gaetano Di Vaio, about Neapolitan street kids; a special mention went to Bartolomeo Pampaloni’s “Roma Termini” which delves into the underworld of Rome’s main train station.

Rome’s ninth edition came to a close Saturday after being headed for the past three years by veteran fest meister Marco Mueller. Mueller will step down after a rollercoaster ride, full of twists and turns dictated by Italian politics and the economy, during which he tried different fest formulas amid impediments and devised this year’s more populist event, not devoid of highbrow fare, and introduced the audience awards in most sections which certainly yielded more marketable prizes.

Asked what his next move might be, Mueller simply said: “I will be more comfortable working in contexts that are stable.”

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