Festival head leaves post despite assurances

The political turmoil surrounding the Rome Film Festival has claimed its first casualty — fest prexy Goffredo Bettini is ankling amid repeated assurances that the fest’s third edition will not be jeopardized.

Last month, right-wing pol Gianni Alemanno took over as the city’s mayor from leftist Walter Veltroni, the cinephile who launched the event.

Alemanno, an ally of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, started slamming the Rome fest in the leadup to the vote, calling it a handout to Hollywood and promising to remove Bettini if he were elected.

Bettini, a former senator and Veltroni’s right-hand-man, is a prominent member of Italy’s opposition Democratic Party now led by Veltroni.

“During these weeks my only worry has been to save the festival,” Bettini said Tuesday. “That is why I have told the mayor I am willing to leave; to clear the decks of any possible political manipulation.”

Alemanno said Monday the Rome fest would continue to get a grant from the city, which only contributes in small part to its $24 million budget. But the support is considered key to the event’s survival.

The fest is likely to change in some respects: He is keen to make it more of a showcase for Italian movies and less of a Hollywood launching pad.

However, Rome’s budding Business Street mart is expected to remain in place, as are its five section directors: Giorgio Gosetti, Mario Sesti, Piera Detassis, Teresa Cavina and Gianluca Giannelli. Fest will run Oct. 21-31.

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