What follows is an article I wrote about the Roma International Film Fest. I wrote it for my friend Howard, who was the press co-ordinator (or something) and wants me to get it published.

Ummmm. It’s on my blog. Done.

Canadians Represent Rome Indy Film Fest

The Rome Independent Film Fest puts the emphasis on International. In only its fifth year it has a menu of 100 films from 70 different countries. The particular international flavour I’ve been missing whilst living here in Rome, has been that j’e ne sais quoi from my home country Canada. So it was for the Evento canadese last Friday April 7 that my Italian girlfriend and I made our first visit to the RIFF. Some notes about the RIFF: it seemed unorganized; anyone could just walk on into the theatre without a clue to what’s playing. Or people, like us, could walk in over half an hour early because the event was behind schedule. On the plus side, anyone could just walk in because the films are free. Also, people may have had trouble finding the theatre because the web site (www.riff.it) is difficult to navigate. We, however, made it Friday evening, only slightly early. We used the excess time to take advantage of the maple leaf lapel pins and beaver bookmarks on the banquet table.

Two Canadian films comprised the Evento canadese. The first, Between Midnight and the Roosters Crow, is Nadja Drosts exploration of a Canadian oil company’s complicity in social and environmental injustice in Ecuador. It may come as no surprise that the oil company, Encana, despite lip service to Corporate Social Responsibility, is actually a pack of exploitative dirtbags who care little about the Ecuadorian farmers. It certainly came as no surprise to me.

The lack of originality in the material is hardly a fault of the film-maker, but the films earnest tone delves into desperation at times. However, if you’re immune to the plight of those farmers you’re either heartless, an oil company executive, or most probably both. Though it doesn’t necessarily make for the most dynamic film, I didn’t hate watching it, and the DIY-style exposes the very real passion of the film makers.

The next film was The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico. This film is a pseudo documentary comprised of grainy concert, studio, and home movie footage, spliced with interviews with friends and country music stars who know the late, sad genius Guy Terrifico. Even Merle Haggard, who once punched Guy out in Nashville, is interviewed while recording music for a new Guy Terrifico tribute album.

The story follows in the Canadian mockumentary tradition of FUBAR in that it embraces the ridiculousness of its subject and – by treating it with honesty and pathos – creates an excellent film. It tells the story of the life (and hard times of) Guy Terrifico. A troubled man who follows his dream of being a country music superstar. Before he makes it big he wins the lottery and accelerates his self-destructive lifestyle, leading to his tragic “hump the drum” phase and ultimate demise. This class clown never really gets the chance to show the world how smart he really is, because before long he’s gone.

The events and flashbacks all flesh out the portrait of a troubled but talented musician, and showcase the talents of a gifted filmmaker. The film shows a confident auteur with a sensitive and wry vision. The deft hand of writer/director Michael Mabbot helps us appreciate the genius of Guy Terrifico. An achingly sweet portrait of “a real asshole.” Smart and funny with verisimilitude in the vicissitudes – and that’s what one wants in a mockumentary. Thanks also to Mabbot for setting Terrifico’s home base in Vancouver.

After the films I was ready to chase a handful of percocets with a fifth of whiskey and listen to some heartbreakingly beautiful country, but instead we managed to tag along to a RIFF dinner function for volunteers and guests of the festival. The night was a microcosm of what a film fest is about: both great and pretty good films, networking, inspiration, and slipping in the side door to be part of the action. Next year we can hope for better organization to showcase films, and at least one more free lunch.

Ryan Millar