Directors tell tales of '8' at festival

Monica Bellucci broke in the Rome Film Festival red carpet on Thursday for tepidly received Italo meller “The Man Who Loves.”

But the attention-getter of the day was omnibus pic “8,” a depiction of world ills by eight helmers, including Mira Nair, Gael Garcia Bernal, Jane Campion and Wim Wenders, who were in attendance for the preem.

The pic aims to raise awareness of the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals, under which 191 governments committed to halve world poverty by 2015. But it wound up spurring some internecine warfare within the U.N.

Nair revealed during the press conference that her short “How Can It Be?,” about the breakup of a Muslim marriage in Brooklyn, incurred the ire of a U.N. official who deemed it anti-Islamic and pulled U.N. backing from the project.

Nair said she had intended her short to “promote gender equality.”

“Religious women are often considered as not having any rights; the (Muslim) veil should instead be seen as a powerful symbol of identity,” Nair added, defending her work.

Gallic producers Marc Oberon and Lissandra Haulica said that the U.N. had “asked us, actually, ordered us” to remove the episode. “But we had agreed on giving the directors artistic freedom and we did not back down.”

The “8″ producers also claimed U.N. officials tried to pressure other fests to reject the pic, including Cannes.

Polemics aside, the hard-hitting “8″ regaled Rome both with gravitas and the buzz created by a bevy of heavyweight auteurs.

Also on hand for its launch were Gaul’s Gaspar Noe and Mauritanian helmer Abderrahmane Sissako.

The Rome fest runs through Oct. 31.

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