Pan Nalin
Pan Nalin

Pan Nalin’s all-female Bollywood buddy movie “Angry Indian Goddesses” continued its successful run on the fall film festival circuit, winning the BNL People’s Choice Award on Sunday at the 10th Rome Film Festival. The Rome win for “Goddesses” follows its world premiere at TIFF, where it came second to Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room” in the People’s Choice awards there. Pic got an eight-minute standing ovation at its Rome premiere last week. Starring Sarah-Jane Dias, “Goddesses” tells the story of Frieda, a strong-willed fashion photographer who summons her friends to Goa, where she surprises them by revealing her plans to get married. As the holiday turns into a raucous bachelorette party, the women share secrets, fight and ultimately bond.

“It makes me particularly happy that this film was voted the winner, because one of the goals I had set for myself was to offer the audience high quality films from all over the world: the Indian film industry is one of the most advanced, and Pan Nalin’s films are among its most stimulating, dynamic, and provocative products,” said Rome topper Antonio Monda in a statement. The nod for Nalin’s film ended the Rome fest on a positive note in a year that saw drastic changes. Originally launched as a star-driven, red carpet-oriented festival that could potentially compete with Venice and Berlin, incoming director Monda stripped the festival back to basics, with a line-up of just 53 films.

“What I wanted to do is reshape this event drastically,” Monda said at a presser Saturday. “We are different compared with other [Italian] festivals and that’s what I intended to do: make it a game changer.” Accordingly, gone was the competition, and therefore juries. Opening and closing ceremonies were scrapped, the line-up was substantially slimmed down, and the paparazzi and glitz-lovers were hurting, since stars were not a priority. “I turned down movies with big stars, simply because I did not like them,” Monda maintained, adding that he will discuss the issue with the fest board with a view to adding more star power next year.

Eight-day event
Instead, Monda curated a series of well-received ‘in conversation’ events: Wes Anderson discussed Italian cinema with novelist Donna Tartt; Joel Coen and Frances McDormand talked about juggling marriage with work; while William Friedkin and Dario Argento swapped notes on their genre-movie influences. Monda’s more somber fest format didn’t help attendance. Ticket sales plunged 21 percent to slightly over 35,000 paid admissions for the eight-day event, which does not compare well with, say, the mere 3.8 percent dip suffered by the recent ended BFI London Film Festival.

That said, the Rome “festa” had some venue issues this year that certainly attenuate what can be seen as a disaffection on the part of overall Rome audiences for this no frills edition. The newly launched Rome Mia market, dedicated to movies, docus, TV and video games, instead almost doubled attendance compared with the pre-existing Business Street mart. More than 1300 execs – more than half of which non-Italian – made the trek, including more than 300 buyers, 50 commissioning editors from TV networks, and 118 international sales agents.-Reuters