Weevils and all, Rome ring-road film marks documentary comeback

Fri Sep 6, 2013 1:17pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

VENICE (Reuters) - A portrait of life along Rome's ring road is emerging as the quirkiest of a flurry of documentaries making waves at two of the world's top film festivals.

Italian director Gianfranco Rosi's "Sacro GRA" - a pun on the ring road's name which evokes the Italian for Holy Grail - delves into the lives of a dozen characters, including a weevil-fighting tree scientist, but their names, personalities and occupations only gradually become clear.

At the Venice Film Festival, it is one of an unprecedented two documentaries in competition for the Golden Lion award for best picture, due to be awarded on Saturday. The other is director Errol Morris's "The Unknown Known", a portrayal of former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Meanwhile "The Fifth Estate," an unlikely thriller that chronicles the emergence of anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and its enigmatic founder Julian Assange, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday.

Often seen as the poor relation of feature films, documentaries are enjoying a resurgence.

"Documentaries are entertaining and they can be just as stimulating" as conventional feature films, said Charles McDonald, a London-based publicist promoting Morris's movie, and had overcome "the stigma that they were rather dry".

Also being screened at both festivals - considered testing grounds for the Oscars - are "The Armstrong Lie", about disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, and "Walesa, Man of Hope" a biopic of the Polish Solidarity union leader.


Director Gianfranco Rosi (2nd R) poses with his cast during a red carpet for the movie "Sacro Gra" at the 70th Venice Film Festival September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi