Demonstrators hit red carpet over government cuts

The Rome Film Festival kicked off Thursday amid protests over the future of Italy’s film industry.

Hundreds of demonstrators crowded the red carpet, preventing Keira Knightley and Eva Mendes from walking through to tubthump opener “Last Night.”

The film community is incensed by belt-tightening measures introduced by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government, which has frozen state film funds and may scrap the new tax incentives for production, raising fears that the Italo industry could grind to a halt.

The demonstrators — including actors, directors, members of the 100 Autori association of auteurs and workers at Cinecitta Studios — were allowed on the red carpet by fest director Piera Detassis, who supports the protest.

At a packed confab about tax incentives held by motion picture body Anica at the Hotel Majestic, topper Riccardo Tozzi cautioned that “without the tax credits, Italian cinema will be in a total shambles.”

Tozzi, who heads Rome shingle Cattleya, Universal’s Italo production outpost, complained that he has five projects ready to roll but will greenlight only two if the incentives are cut.

In addition to driving the local industry, the tax credits, which went into effect last year, have lured high-profile Hollywood productions “The American” and “The Tourist” for extended shoots.

Tozzi said Berlusconi’s right-hand man, Gianni Letta, gave assurances during a meeting Wednesday that the incentives would not be scrapped in the upcoming budget. But Tozzi cautioned that there was room for doubt.

Attesting to the Italo film industry’s ambition despite its current impediments, Rome’s opening day also saw the world preem of Italy’s first 3D toon, “Winx Club in 3D — Magical Adventure,” produced by Iginio Straffi’s Rainbow Animation Studio in tandem with Medusa.

Other first-day highlights included a 20-minute sneak peak of Disney’s “Tron Legacy”; a tribute to Akira Kurosawa, with a special screening of a restored version of the late Japanese master’s 1950 classic, “Rashomon”; and the start of Rome’s informal Business Street mart, for which some 700 industryites are signed up.

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