Intl. Festival to bow Oct. 13-21, 2006

VENICE — Rome’s new international film fest chose an odd place and time — the Lido’s Palazzo Del Cinema in the middle of the Venice Film Festival — for its launch Thursday, and it soon became clear the two events are on a collision course.

The Cinema Rome Intl. Festival, which has high-profile aspirations, deep pockets and backing from some Italian politicians and industryites, will bow its first edition Oct. 13-21, 2006.

Boasting a E7 million ($8.6 million) budget — not far behind Venice’s $10 million for the current edition — event will have a more city-fest feel, with a selection of some 80 pics unspooling for local auds in the Eternal City’s new state-of-the-art seven-screen Auditorium, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano.”It will be a nine-day, metropolitan movie party,” said Auditorium topper Goffredo Bettini. “Our goal is to reach a large audience, especially the city’s youths.”

A steering committee is running Rome’s Cinema, which has no single topper.

Head honchos are Venice Days chief Giorgio Gosetti and film critic Mario Sesti. Former Locarno deputy chief Teresa Cavina is in charge of the international side and prominent journo Piera De Tassis will run galas.

Fest will have five sections, including a competish for cutting-edge pics, a showcase for mainstream fare and a kiddie section.

In typically Byzantine Italian fashion, the packed Venice press conference was called to announce a broad collaboration between the Biennale arts foundation, which runs the Venice fest, and Musica per Roma, the foundation backing the Auditorium.

A panel of politicos and officials — including Culture Minister Rocco Buttiglione, the mayors of Venice and Rome, and Biennale prexy Davide Croff — tried to downplay antagonism between the two events.

“There is no reason for us to be in competition,” Croff said.

But Venice mayor Massimo Cacciari struck a less conciliatory tone.

‘Competing for premieres’

“While in some ways our events may be different, and therefore complementary, we will still be competing for premieres,” he pointed out. “And unless the Lido gets new infrastructure, we won’t be able to compete with Rome on an even keel. We will sink.”

The city of Venice needs $124 million to build its planned Palazzo del Cinema, which would breathe new life into the venerable old fest. But the government is unlikely to provide coin less than a year before general elections, expected next spring.

“In a country that is bleak, lethargic and afraid of novelty, let’s work together, each without jealousy,” said Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni, who has been lunching with international distribs at the Lido.

Venice artistic topper Marco Muller, who was not on the panel, was less diplomatic than his Biennale boss.

“I am quite amazed that everybody is saying there is no conflict between us. At least one member of the steering committee is going around the Lido telling industry people, ‘Don’t bother coming to Venice,’ ” he told Daily Variety.

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