January 26, 2006

Rome mayor unveils new film fest

ROME (Reuters) - Rome's mayor unveiled plans for his
ambitious new international film festival on Thursday, playing
down what many see as an inevitable rivalry with the Venice

"We want the two to grow together," Walter Veltroni, a
movie buff who hails from the biggest party in Italy's
center-left opposition, told a packed news conference.

"This is a different creature," he said, describing the
October 13-21 event as a city fest with a jury made up of
ordinary film-goers and a more popular approach than the
high-brow Venice extravaganza, the world's oldest film

With a budget of 7 million euros ($8.6 million), put
together mostly from private funds, the festival will have five
sections including a competition for emerging film-makers,
premieres, retrospectives and documentaries.

It will be based mainly in the new, modernist Auditorium
concert hall designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, but
will also use venues in the historic city center.

Veltroni has long cherished the idea of boosting Italy's
capital with a high-profile film event and hopes to build on
the city's role as a film-making hub.

Industry watchers say the Rome festival is bound to vie for
premieres and money with the cash-strapped Venice competition
-- which has a budget of around 8 million euros and runs in
early September -- at a time when the Italian government is
cutting funds for cultural events.

Venice has been dogged by controversies and organizational
problems and its new iceberg-shaped Palace of Cinema remains on
the drawing board with no financial backing for the 100 million
euro project.

Davide Croff, director of the Biennale art foundation that
oversees the Venice festival, said in October the cash shortage
threatened the event's very survival. Festival director Marco
Muller has said he will step down if he cannot secure the