Industry mulls adding Rome fest

Crowded market sked could add one more

Italy is trying to come up with something that could compensate for Mifed’s demise. And, in so doing, their efforts could rattle Venice, stirring the fest to fast track plans for a market.

The city of Rome is trying.

It’s plowing ahead with plans for a Festa del Cinema in October 2006, bankrolled by an E6 million-E8 million ($7 million to $10 million) budget.

That sizable sum is not much less than the $11 million the Venice fest will spend for its upcoming 62nd edition.

The blueprint for Rome’s festa is being drafted by Giorgio Gosetti, topper of Venice’s recently introduced Venice Days section — which is modeled on the Cannes Directors Fortnight — and by film critic Mario Sesti.

Top on the list of the festa’s objectives are luring international industryites — as well as stars — and boosting European cinema.

Rome’s new music venue, the Renzo Piano-designed Auditorium, has confirmed plans for the fest.

“We want to launch an international festival that will pay close attention to market activity and film production, reviving Rome’s role as a film showcase and as a film industry hub,” Auditorium topper Goffredo Bettini, a leftist pol, told Variety.

“At the same time, we want this to be an event that can involve not just the Auditorium, but facilities in the entire city of Rome, with wide audience participation.”

Bettini says he is holding off on any further details until after Venice’s upcoming edition in September.

Rome’s leftist film buff and mayor Walter Veltroni has long dreamed of a topnotch film fest hosted by Italy’s city of cinema. And Veltroni has been courting Robert De Niro, who could build a bridge with the Tribeca fest and New York’s indie film scene as well as Hollywood.

In April, during Tribeca, Veltroni jetted to New York where he reportedly met with De Niro during a dinner hosted by Daily News editor Martin Zuckermann. The mayor and De Niro subsequently lunched in Rome’s Casa Del Jazz. De Niro has apparently turned down the fest’s presidency, but is mulling over whether to accept a role as an adviser to the fest. Launching a Rome film fest with an international standing in October is no doubt a tall order.

“How are you going to find good new films, when you are coming shortly after Venice, Toronto and San Sebastian?,” observes one Rome sales agent.

As for the fest’s market ambitions, those buyers and sellers who might not be AFM-bound would likely not want to shoulder travel and hotel costs to a specialized fall event without any infrastructure like the old Mifed bunker which, despite the stuffy air, had the advantage of keeping everything under one roof.

But while a festival in Rome might help create a market, one more friendly toward European product than AFM, Italy already has a high-profile fest: Venice.

The Lido folks meanwhilehave not been pleased to hear about the Rome event.

Everything in Italy being political, the fest’s plans come from the opposition camp. Biennale prexy Davide Croff and Venice topper Marco Muller were appointed by the center-right Berlusconi government, while Veltroni is a prominent member of the main opposition force, the Democratic Party of the Left.

Yet Biennale prexy Davide Croff was quick to play down any antagonism on the part of Venice’s parent organization.

“I don’t feel threatened,” Croff says.

Croff says Venice has long-term plans to beef up its informal market activity. Plans, which had been announced by Mifed last year for a linkup with Venice, have been shelved.

Meanwhile, Mifed organizers boldly say they are “convinced that we can create a different new market, which will have a higher volume of product and attendees than the last edition of Mifed,” per Ernesto Paolillo, a Fiera di Milano manager who has replaced Carlo Bassi as chief of the dead Milan mart.

Paolillo says Fiera di Milano is considering the possibility of a linkup between Mifed and the Rome fest as one of its options. But the two camps have yet to talk.

“I’m not sure if Mifed died of suicide, homicide, or simply of old age. But I certainly wonder if it makes any sense to revive it,” says Paola Corvino, head of Rome’s Intra Films, who is also prexy of Italo film exporters’ union Unefa.

Others in Europe are more amenable to the idea that something could be done in Italy to compensate for the Milan mart’s absence.

“I don’t think AFM in November has completely replaced the job that Mifed was doing,” says Spanish sales agent Kevin Williams.

Generally, U.S. sales companies seem reluctant to add another date to their already crowded fest calendar.

GreeneStreet Intl. head Cedric Jeanson says, “The industry has readjusted itself nicely, choosing AFM over Mifed, which has opened up a wider window for Berlin. Any new festival in Rome would be a purely Italian matter. Is it going to get an international profile? I don’t think so.”

But there are notable exceptions.

“There’s always room for another festival,” says Sony Pictures Classics co-topper Tom Bernard.

“But will it be useful as a market? Mifed seems to have lost clout as companies have made a choice, and AFM really has more of a connection with the Asian film industry. Yet maybe Rome would be more enticing.”

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