CANNES — Anyone with a sharp eye will notice that all the Italian films in Cannes are programmed after Sunday. That’s no accident. Sunday is the most important election in five years, which will decide whether Olive Tree coalition candidate Francesco Rutelli or Silvio Berlusconi will become prime minister of Italy, and it has become a conditioning factor in the schedule of every Italian attending Cannes this year.
In a land where absentee ballots are nonexistent, many Italians will delay their Croisette appearance until after the elections, including Carla Cattani of the Italian Cinema Agency. Her colleague Griselda Guerrasio, instead, plans to leave the festival Sunday for the vote and not return, while ICA head Giorgio Gossetti will take the day off from his Cannes meetings to fly back to Rome to vote and then trek back to the Croisette.
He’s one of many Italians who are going to take an expensive midfestival voting break. Most plan a one-day, morning-evening trip on Sunday. Distributor Vieri Razzini of Rome-based Teodora films estimated it will cost him an extra $500 to cast his ballot this year, but he has planned his Cannes schedule around it.
Others have shorter trips to make, such as Telepiu buyer Fabrizio Grossoli, who resides in Milan, and journalist Umberto Rossi, who lives in Genoa, just down the coast from Cannes.
But for most Cannes-goers, exercising their civic rights means a long flight back to Rome. “It costs an arm and a leg,” noted Roberto Silvestri of Il Manifesto, “but I’m not going to let Berlusconi win that easily. It’s a question of conscience.”
Perhaps it’s a fact of life that most film people are not Berlusconi supporters, but everyone who announced their intention to return to Italy to vote seemed likely to vote for the center-left Olive candidates. Another explanation is that the polls give Berlusconi a distinct advantage over Rutelli, and his supporters feel less pressured to make their vote count. “I’m mainly going back to vote in the Rome mayoral election,” noted Maria Pia Fusco of La Repubblica. “That’s where I think my party can win.”
A novel solution to the voting dilemma came from Italian Cinema’s Giovanni Maria Piemontese, who decide to donate the $200 plane fare to his candidate instead of making the grueling mid-fest flight to Rome. “They say that’s what every mayoral vote costs the party. It’s probably just as effective.”