Broad Humor Abroad - The Broad Humor Film Festival in Rome

The "Broad Humor Film Festival" landed in Rome the weekend of Jan. 26-28 and what a weekend it was with twenty-one funny films written and directed by women.  First of all, the venue was stunning.  The home of the English Theater of Rome, which was hosting the "Broad Humor Abroad" weekend, is  the Teatro L'Aciliuto. It is usually a music, poetry and theater space, but this weekend it was all films and all fun.

The lobby of the Teatro L'Arciliuto

Stepping into the Teatro L'Arciliuto is stepping into Roman history.  Once the home to a studio frequented by Raphael, the Teatro is on two levels.  The first consists of a welcoming entryway and two cozy rooms with couches and comfy chairs.  There is a bar and when one buys a ticket to an event at the Teatro, a drink or two comes with it.  

So the mostly English-speaking patrons of the "Broad Humor" festival were in a very good mood as they headed down the lovely marble stairway to the below-ground theatre space where the film screenings took place.   The small amphitheatre one finds at the foot of the stairs seats about 80 people and has stone walls dating to the 2nd Century BC, which were warmed right up by the enthusiastic groups that gathered each night of the festival.

The "Broad Humor Film Festival" premiered in 2006 in Venice Beach, California, and the films shown in Rome were picked by its creator, Susan di Rende, as festival highlights.  They did not disappoint.

Michele Maher describes her process to a rapt audience

Friday night opened with two short films and the feature, "Garmento," which was written and directed by Michelle Maher. The movie, a subtly funny look at New York's fashion industry, resonated with the sylish crowd in Rome and Maher was warmly received for a question and answer session after the screening.  "Garmento" was chosen as the Best Feature Film of the 2006 Broad Humor Film Festival and has been picked up for international distribution under the title "Threads."

The two shorts with "Garmento" were "Go With the 'Fro"  which won Best Short in 2006 and "Fancy" which won the Bust Magazine Award.  Both provoked gales of laughter from men and women alike, even though the subjects of each hair dressing and gynecology respectively- are usually seen as "women's" and not "universal" subject matter. In fact, the teenage projectionist declared "Fancy" his favorite and a movie his friends would love.

Friday ended with "Slippery Slope" a madcap romp that puts a strident feminist filmmaker behind the camera of a porn film.  The writer/director Sarah Schenck builds the action along with the shift of consciousness of her protagonist to deliver a deeply satisfying, uh,  climax.

Filmmaker Donna Wheeler steals shots in the Rome subway for an iPod thriller

Saturday was No-Budget Day for filmmakers long on ideas but short on cash. Three features, made for less than most people spend on a vacation in Rome, were screened along with almost a dozen short films.

Festival Director Susan di Rende explains why she began the Broad Humor Film Festival

Festival Director di Rende opened the day with a screening of her feature, "Life on a Leash" a simple and sweet film about a young woman whose arid life blossoms when she rescues a stray dog.   The enthusiasm for this film was glowing, as one festival-goer exclaimed after the screenings, "That 13-year-old girl sitting next to me loved "Life on a Leash" as much as I did we giggled together."

Lorraine "Abner Zurd" Fontanes takes a question about her film

The evening of laughter continued with Lorraine "Abner Zurd" Fontanes' "The Day Arnold Schwarzenegger Kicked My A**,"  and "Death of Saleswoman," written and directed by Donna Wheeler.  It seemed the European crowd was particularly taken with the Fontanes' political satire on the American electoral system and peppered her with questions about its origin and what she might do next.  The audience also wanted to know all about how Wheeler had so successfully made her film on such a tight budget.

Some of the shorts that had a particular appeal were "A Day in the Life of a Bathroom Key," "The Bread Squeezer"  "USA USA USAAA," "Finding Fifi" and "Chocolate."   These films for the most part depended upon visual humor rather than word play, which were easier for the international audience at the event to follow.

The conversations after the screenings were lively

The last night of screenings featured "Dreammaker" a film by Christina Morales Hemenway and "In the Land of Milk and Money" by Susan Emshwiller.  Sunday evening's crowd was a little smaller than the previous nights' but no less enthusiastic and the festival was pronounced a success by Gaby Ford, artistic director of the English Theatre of Rome.  Talks are underway to bring "Broad Humor" to Paris as well as a return to Rome with highlights from this coming year's U.S. festival set for Aug. 24-26, again in Venice Beach, Calif.  

One goal of the Festival is to build community among the filmmakers


The Broad Humor Film Festival
9854 National Blvd. #166
Los Angeles, CA 90034

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