August 30, 2006

Rome, Venice fests feud over broken pact

By Eric J. Lyman

ROME (Hollywood Reporter) - The fur was flying Tuesday
between the organizers of the venerable Venice Film Festival
and its fledgling counterpart in Rome.

After weeks of politely spinning the growing rivalry
between the festivals, organizers of the events erupted into a
war of words just hours before the Venice fest was scheduled to
open Wednesday.

In an interview Monday with state broadcaster RAI, Venice
director Marco Muller blasted the inaugural RomaCinemaFest for
breaking what he said was an agreement not to make any major
announcements during the week before Venice's opening.

On Monday, Rome said Nicole Kidman would open its festival
October 13, and confirmed previous reports that her film "Fur"
would premiere at the event.

"I've got no fear of the RomaCinemaFest because they are
only screening films that neither Cannes nor Venice wanted," an
angry Muller told RAI. His office confirmed his remarks.

Rome responded Tuesday, with co-directors Giorgio Gosetti
and Mario Sesti saying that Muller's interview was "an
incredible offense to all cinema and to the extraordinary
directors who decided to bring films to Rome."

"Venice should not fear Rome," they said. "It should fear
its own mistakes."

Since the creation of the RomaCinemaFest was announced on
the Venice Lido a year ago, the two festivals have gone to
great lengths to show they supported each other, even agreeing
in July to produce dual tributes to Italian directors Roberto
Rossellini, Luchino Visconti and Bernardo Bertolucci. But
privately, officials from both festivals mumbled complaints
about the other.

In July, Muller said in an interview that he was
disappointed that Rome chose a start date so close to Venice's
close -- there are less than five weeks between Venice's
closing day on September 9 and the Rome start -- but he said he
would withhold judgment until Rome announced its lineup in

"The truth is we don't know anything (about Rome)," Muller
said at the time. "It's still a mystery what kind of festival
Rome will be. The truth is we will only really know in
mid-September, when they announce their lineup of films. Are
they looking for the same kinds of films Venice is interested
in? Are they trying to mimic Venice or really planning to come
up with something new?"

Venice officials said Tuesday that Rome actions regarding
the announcement involving Kidman were a shot across Venice's

"The timing was intentional and designed to distract
attention," one official said in an interview.

Until last year, Rome's Gosetti ran the Venice Days sidebar
at the Lido. He and other RomaCinemaFest officials had been
planning to attend part of this year's Venice event. There is
no word yet whether the recent exchange of words means they'll
cancel their plans.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter