Political corruption, murder, and the balance of power are three elements in the independent short Roma Sub Rosa: The Secret Under the Rose.
The short is a period piece set in Italy and was written by former Union City resident Jim Thalman.
It debuted last June on Adelphia Cable Channel 17 WHDT in California and has received critical acclaim at film festivals throughout the United States and abroad since its first screenings in February of 2006.
Following the overwhelming response, WHDT scheduled a second telecast in July, and additional networks have brought the film to 1.4 million homes across the country.
Now Roma Sub Rosa is scheduled to take on the Big Apple with a film screening set for Saturday, Feb. 3, at OS Art House at John Street Grill, 17 John St. at 8 p.m.
"On the eve of war, a politician's empty words echo the glories of war as a generation of field officers decided that the murder of a politician is a wiser course of action than to knowingly march thousands to the death," said writer and co-producer Thalman. "People love the incorporation of mafia into the Roman Empire, and they can relate to it. Within this world there is no room for politicians, they would sooner get murdered before getting any fame or power."
"This film is an alternative to what we have seen on the Roman Empire," said Thalman. "For the most part Roman stories on film are told from a very British perspective, and has nothing of the Italian culture laced in."
Set in 212 B.C. Southern Italy, 162 years before Caesar, the story follows a "ragtag army" of new recruits lead by Lt. General Cornelius Scipio (played by Thalman). The recruits are among the newly formed Meridian Armies, which have been sent out by the Roman Senate to put an end to the violence brought by Hannibal of Carthage.
"This is from the Italian perspective, which is based on family," said Thalman. "Within Roman culture it is about loyalty to family, and nothing else matters."
These soldiers fighting alongside one another are like family, loyal to each other. Their leader Scipio is among the veteran soldiers, who instigate a plot to assassinate the politicians, who according to Thalman seek the glories of war at the price of soldiers' lives.
"It's very prison yard," said Thalman. "We have spun a conspiracy [and tell the story] of a generation of ambitious young men and how they come to power, which they do so by murdering one man instead of through these large battle sequences."
The plot thickens
So the question becomes, do the lives of a few justify the means to save hundreds of others?
For this group of soldiers it does. Thus begins a web of negotiations, blackmail, marriage and murder to seize control of the Meridian Armies. It is the allegiances of these great families that put an end to squabbling politicians, and become the powerful families of Rome.
"It's much more akin to films like the Godfather and Goodfellas," said Thalman. "It's a crime story set as a period film."
The film follows the group in a sequence of events that take place from sunset to sunrise.
"We follow each of these eight men, which ultimately become, and this is a fact, the powerful founding families of the Roman Empire," said Thalman.
These men take specific courses of action to fulfill their purpose of assassinating the Imperator, or crown prince, without instigating a civil war amongst the army.
"This happens in a war camp on the verge of civil war with over 1,000 men, with the potential to turn on each other," said Thalman.
Building a franchise
Following the success of Roma Sub Rosa, which was completed in November of 2005, Thalman and Cobblestone Pictures, who released the film, will continue with an additional three-part installment.
"We started with this film as a pilot, and it has been playing to great notoriety around the world," said Thalman.
The film is set to screen next in Canada. Thalman and Cobblestone Pictures are also in negotiations to possibly bring the film to Spain.
"It's gaining momentum and a great popularity, so through that we have been able to solidify second monies and production deals to shoot the four part [series] needed to sell this franchise," said Thalman.
Roma Sub Rosa was made on a budget of just over $50,000, and had a majority of their costume armor and weapons donated by the Warner Bros. Studios.
"There is a huge popularity for ancient pieces right now, and Rome in particular, thanks to shows like HBO's Rome," said Thalman.
The second film will continue with the hunt for Hannibal, the third will involve the capture of Carthage, and the final installment will be titled All Roads Lead to Rome.
"When they get back to Rome is when it becomes the most dangerous," said Thalman. "The soldiers have garnered wealth and made enemies, and vendettas have formed against them."
Screenplays for the following films are completed and in the works with a couple of well-known actors expressing interest in the films.
"There is universality to it," said Thalman. "Even though its set in 212 B.C. its something that any 16 or 18 year old can understand because it's mafia. It's the Sopranos set in Rome."
Roma Sub Rosa was directed by Michael Fischa; produced by Matt Walsh, Klint Macro, Jim Thalman, and executive produced by Joseph Sanchez, Arian Blanco, and John J. McMahon.
For more information on Roma Sub Rosa visit www.romasubrosa.com
... unfortunately, the trailers don't seem to be up at the website.