The 8th Rome Film Festival drew to a close Sunday with the international premiere of Benny Chan's thriller The White Storm (Sou duk) and the wrap-up of the festival's The Business Street market event.
In an unusual move, festival officials scheduled the main awards ceremony for the festival's penultimate day. That means TIR, a documentary from Alberto Fasulo about a Bosnian truck driver, a surprise winner of the festival's main prize, acting awards to Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson, and other prizes were all handed out a full day before the fest officially shut down.
Nonetheless, the premiere of The White Storm was eagerly anticipated by film fans. Chan is a former protégé of acclaimed Chinese directors Johnnie To and Tsui Hark (who was given Rome's second Maverick Filmmaker honor Saturday), and festival officials billed big-budget The White Storm as the first "global"-style detective film made in China.
The Hollywood Reporter's Clarence Tsui, who reviewed the film from the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival three weeks ago, called the The White Storm "a narco thriller that overwhelms with its high-octane action choreography, but underachieves in consolidating its brotherhood-in-peril narrative."
The rest of the film program Sunday was highlighted by the world premieres of Fellini's Finerals (I funeral di Fellini) by directors Fausto Brizzi, Giuseppe Petitto, and Denver M. Beattie, as well as Jonathan, a new short from Larry Clark, winner of last year's Golden Marcus Aurelius prize with Marfa Girl and the head of this year's jury in the CinemaXXI sidebar.
The Business Street closed with mostly positive reviews, with festival officials reporting an uptick in participation despite a near-overlap with the American Film Market, which concluded Wednesday. Organizers said 208 buyers were in town for the event, compare to 190 a year ago, and the 91 world sales agents, 232 producers, and 779 total credentials were all increases compared to 2012.
In the festival's closing press conference Saturday, second-year artistic director Marco Mueller said next year's event would likely be pushed back about a week, in part to avoid an overlap with AFM. Mueller actually lobbied to have the festival take place in the second half of November when he arrived in Rome from Venice early last year (for its first six editions, the festival took place in October).
Moving Rome to later in November will further encroach on the calendar spot for the 31-year-old Turin Film Festival in northern Italy, which gets underway Nov. 22, but Mueller said the two events would reach a compromise on dates for 2014.