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Monday, November 03, 2008

Rome Day 1 (Pt. 2) - the EASY VIRTUE premiere with Jessica Biel and Ben Barnes at the Rome International Film Festival


When flying to Rome, I was in a mild state of panic because, while we were all told to bring along DVDs of our BMW Shorties-winning films (just in case we had screen it when attending the Young Directors Project Shorties Presentation at the Rome Film Fest later that night), I brought LOVE SUICIDES (my latest short film) instead of CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY by accident.

I was resourceful (when you're a disorganized and forgetful person, you'll end up learning how to clean your own crap), and came up with all kinds of methods to remedy this problem ever since we stopped briefly at Dubai for transit. I swiftly asked my sister to upload the ISO file onto Yousendit so I could download from there and burn a copy. Unfortunately, my resourcefulness was defeated by the ever unreliable Streamyx, and it was impossible for her to upload a 1GB file online without facing non-stop disconnections. I guess I've been pampered by the insane Internet speed in Tokyo, where it would take only ten minutes (or less) to upload a 1GB file.

In the end, knowing that I didn't have CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY with me, I was somewhat distraught, but told myself that LOVE SUICIDES was probably more suited for European sensibilities etc. anyway. It would be impactful to see a short film with devastatingly heartbreaking scenes of a mother force feeding her cute little daughter:


And thus, as we waited at the hotel lobby for the taxi to come, my mind was plagued in a constant storm of gloom.

Ida, Maha and Mui, before the Rome Film Festival

Mui and Maha, waiting to go to Rome Film Festival

I had prepared numerous DVD copies of LOVE SUICIDES and placed it in my pocket, yet there was a tinge of guilt as Ida Nerina's words from hours earlier echoed in my ears.

Ida all dressed up for Rome Film Festival
Ida, all dressed up for the EASY VIRTUE premiere

This was her reply after hearing from me that my contingency plan was to show LOVE SUICIDES instead.

It was CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY that got you to Rome. That's why it would've been better if you could honour it (the film) here.

Indeed. Could it be possible that my already-tainted soul had plummeted to such dark depths, enabling me to commit such a hideous betrayal?

The taxi came and we were whisked off to the Festival internazionale del Film di Roma.

BMW was the environmental partner of the film festival, and this is why we, the winners of the BMW Shorties short film competition, were able to go there as guests. Celebrities and festival guests were chauffeured to the red carpet in the BMW Hydrogen 7. The hydrogen-powered cars were shown to us, but I didn't manage to take a photo because it was too dark then, so I'll put some other guy's photo of the car instead:

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However, I managed to try out the car.

In a BMW Hydrogen 7

Of course, when I said 'try out the car', I really meant letting someone snap a photo of me while I sat at the driver's seat.

The Young Directors Project Shorties Presentation was held at the Mini Lounge... or rather, that's what I thought the event was called. The whole thing was in Italian, and I could only stare attentively and nodded and laughed when everyone was doing the same, an art that I've mastered while being in Japan.

(Meanwhile, an Italian photographer asked to take a photo of Ida. It seemed that the glitz and glamour of our beloved Malaysian star transcended cultural and national barriers.)

Luca Argentero, Valentina Lodovini and others talking at International Rome Film Fest

As for the event, I'm not really sure what happened. It started out with Italian actors Luca Argentero ("What a beautiful man!" Ida gushed. "Yes, he makes me question my sexuality." I deadpanned), Valentina Lodovini (beautiful, but alas, I have nary a photo with her, I hesitated when I remembered Clint Eastwood's 'It is the Chinese Water Torture' quote about posing for photos on Roger Ebert's blog) and a few others sitting onstage, answering questions from the press, and then, three short films by young Italian directors were screened.

My initial fears mentioned in the first few paragraphs of this blog post were unfounded. There never really was a need to screen any of our short films (unsurprisingly). The short films shown to us, I assume, was part of a workshop of sorts from the Rome Film Fest similar to the Berlinale Talent Campus. I almost sighed in relief, knowing that I didn't have to 'betray' CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY and plunge into damnation.

With the LOVE SUICIDES DVDs still in my pocket, I ended up handing one copy to a cute Italian lady with large luminous eyes who worked in BMW, and another to the actor Luca Argentero:

Ida Nerina, Zahir Omar and Luca Argentero
Ida Nerina, Zahir Omar and Luca Argentero

Me, Zahir and Luca Argentero
Zahir, Luca and I

(I hope that if, in this highly unlikely event that Luca Argentero had watched my LOVE SUICIDES, he wouldn't hate it, since it had devastatingly heartbreaking scenes of a mother force feeding her cute little daughter.)

We then went off to the premiere of EASY VIRTUE, a British period comedy by Stephan Elliott ('The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'), starring Jessica Biel, Colin Firth, Kristin Scott Thomas and Ben 'Prince Caspian' Barnes.

Elliot, Biel and Barnes were at the premiere, sitting a mere few rows behind us.

Jessica Biel and Ben Barnes at Easy Virtue premiere

Jessica Biel and Ben Barnes at Easy Virtue premiere 2

I might share more of my thoughts about EASY VIRTUE some other time. But it's a very enjoyable film, despite having landed on Rome the same day, I remained awake throughout the whole film (of course, besides the quality of the film, it probably also had something to do with the hardcore Italian expresso I drank earlier)

Jessica Biel probably gave her best performance ever (never seen her being that good since THE ILLUSIONIST), Colin Firth remained awesome, Barnes was better than he was in PRINCE CASPIAN, and the film ended with rapturous applause from the audience, and later a standing ovation.

Jessica Biel at the Rome Film Festival

Jessica Biel after Easy Virtue screening