Rome's chattering classes fear new Mayor may axe film festival

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The Independent Online

Some of Italy's cultural stars are already bemoaning the end of a golden age following the election of the rightist candidate Gianni Alemanno as Mayor of Rome, which has placed a question mark over the future of the city's lavish film festival.

In the 15 years that Rome was ruled by the left, many aspects of the Italian capital have deteriorated. The roads are full of potholes, walls are covered in graffiti, policing is haphazard and squatter camps have sprouted on the outskirts.

But one thing the left tackled with passion was culture, and as a result a city renowned mostly for ruins is now on the international calendar for art, music, literature, film and more.

Making bold use of ancient spaces such as the Colosseum and Circus Maximus, they lured Paul McCartney, Sting and Genesis to play. The summer literature festival, staged in the ruined 4th century Massenzio Basilica, drew writers of the calibre of Salman Rushdie, J M Coetzee and Don De Lillo. In 2006, Walter Veltroni, who was Mayor until a couple of months ago and a film nut, created the Rome Film Festival, which threatened to give Venice's event a run for its money.

Yesterday the city's culturati were wondering how much of this achievement will survive Mr Alemanno, a politician who has climbed K2 but is not celebrated for his love of art. The film festival may be an early casualty. Mr Alemanno has already indicated that he will hand control of the festival to the veteran film director Pasquale Squitieri, who yesterday hinted to La Stampa newspaper that he would prefer to close it down. "In Italy we have more film awards than films," he said. "We should support [the film festival of] Venice and use the money to put good actors to work, to recreate the necessary structures. Look at France: in Paris they had a film festival but it was no good to anyone because they already had Cannes."

He said the extravagance of the festival was outrageous. "They can't pay for 18 hotel rooms for Nicole Kidman's bodyguards, and then another 20 for Di Caprio's. The fact that the left did this is incredible... The film festival is all business, it wouldn't be surprising if monarchists were behind it, or Fascists, but to find the young Communists behind it is paradoxical."

Niccolo Ammaniti, the best-selling author of I'm Not Scared, first published in 2001, said: "The cultural vitality brought the city to life. But the identity was a strictly bourgeois one, created and thought up by people with a certain lifestyle. And it was difficult for others to understand."

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