Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reuniting through film

Back in 2005, I was living in Rome and working as a tour guide.  I regularly hung out at a nearby hostel where some friends worked and I could use the internet.  One random night, I ended up going out on the town with four British guys who were staying at the hostel.  We had a grand night out (in Trastevere, I think) and one of the guys, Harry, was fascinated by the fact that I came to Rome and became a tour guide.  I told him if I could do it, so could he.

Fast forward a month or so.  I am stopping in the hostel to say good bye to my friend Melissa as I am headed home for the week to surprise my sister Katie for her high school graduation.  To my surprise, Harry is there, hoping to find a job in Rome.  My company was looking for new guides and my landlord was looking for a new tenet.  I introduce Harry to my boss, give him my landlord's number and go catch my flight.  When I return a week later, Harry has pulled a Talented Mr. Ripley and is living in my apartment and doing my job.

Harry's big passion was film.  He had a few short films that he worked on in Rome, but his passion was to complete a full-length feature set in Rome.  By the fall, I was in law school and Harry was back in the U.K. working on his film.  Later that year, he shot his film on location in Rome, with many of my friends and fellow tour guides acting in the film.  In fact, I had a pretty big crush on Kathy, the tour guide who plays the female lead.

Anyway, he eventually completed the film in 2007 or 2008, but I never had the opportunity to see it.  He screened it at a BAFTA event and I think he had a few other showings in the U.K. and Europe at various film festivals.  Finally - this year, he released it on DVD through Amazon.  I bought it and watched it for the first time tonight.

There is something fascinating about seeing people and places that you know appear in a film.  In one early scene, Harry (as Ollie) is just off the plane and goes to Pensione Ottaviano.  The creaky elevator in the lobby, the common room, and then he goes into the staff room (portrayed as a regular room in the film) and looks out at the window onto Piazza Risorgimento.  The Foot Locker is across the street.  A friend's house is used as a location for one of the scenes.  The Ex-pats hang out in the "American Bar".  All of this is familiar, from another life.

The film itself is pretty decent as well.  Admittedly, it is a film student movie.  The use of black and white, the choppy narrative, and the overly-stylistic way that some of the scenes are shot declare it to be a young filmmaker's attempt to do too much.  But, considering the whole shooting budget was the cost of two round-trip Ryan Air flights from London to Rome, I'd say they did a damn good job.

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