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Italian film folk protest against arts cuts

Boycott of Venice film festival threatened

Drastic funding cuts to the arts planned by the Silvio Berlusconi government prompted Italy’s film community to protest in front of parliament on Monday, with some industryites threatening a Venice Film Festival boycott as the next step.

Berlusconi’s plan to slash the arts fund — known as Fondo Unico Spettacolo (FUS) — from E500 million ($711 million) to $540 million for 2009 came as an unexpected blow just as the government had given the go-ahead to production tax credits designed to pump millions into the industry.

The problem is that many local producers will not be able to tap into the tax incentives unless they can also count on the FUS fund to get a project off the ground.

“We realize that it is an antiquated system of subsidies; we are the first ones to want new rules,” said producer Riccardo Tozzi, prexy of the Italo producers org and topper of Rome’s Cattleya shingle, in which Universal holds a stake. “But don’t strangle us until there is a new system in place,” he added.

Tozzi, along with helmer Paolo Sorrentino (“Il Divo”), is among the most vocal proponents of a Venice boycott unless the government backpedals.

Last year, a similar protest and boycott threat persuaded the government to think seriously about film production tax credits, which are now in place.

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