Police, protesters face off on red carpet

Political upheaval rocked the Rome Film Festival over the weekend, with Italian policemen in riot gear and protesters facing off on the red carpet just as Teutonic terrorism-themed pics “The Baader Meinhof Complex” and “Long Shadows” unspooled.

About 1,000 university students staged a sit-in on the Rome Auditorium catwalk Friday evening to protest education cutbacks made by Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi-led conservative government. There was some tension and a vague 1970s vibe, but the protesters dispersed rather rapidly without any violence.

Shortly thereafter, “Baader Meinhof” helmer Uli Edel and producer-scribe Bernd Eichinger walked down the Rome red carpet smiling and raising their clenched left fists in tame token Marxist salutes, along with cast members Moritz Bleibtreu and Martina Gedeck.

Earlier, at the press conference, Edel made it clear that “Baader Meinhof” is far from intended as a piece of leftist propaganda or glamorization of the guerrilla group believed to have killed 34 people in Germany between 1970 and 1991.

“My aim was to bring people to face the reality of those years and also show that some of the characters could seem very cool and attractive and then become terrifying,” Edel said.

“Baader Meinhof,” which is Germany’s foreign-language Oscar contender, has played well on its home turf. Pic opens Oct. 31 via BIM Distribuzione in Italy, where leftist terrorists the Red Brigades wreaked havoc during Italy’s so-called years of lead.

Both “Baader Meinhof” and helmer Connie Walther’s “Long Shadows,” which turns on a leftist terrorist released from jail after 22 years, are expected to resonate with Italo auds despite mixed reviews from Italian critics.

The other Rome standout over the weekend was Ed Harris-helmed Western “Appaloosa,” which unspooled Saturday to become the fest’s most warmly received pic so far.

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