ROME — The Eternal City plans to bow its own high-profile international film fest in October 2006, occupying Milan’s defunct Mifed film mart timeslot.

Robert De Niro has accepted Rome mayor Walter Veltroni’s invitation to act as an adviser to the event, which has the working name Festa Del Cinema, and is backed by Rome’s Auditorium Theater and the city’s politicians.

Veltroni, a film buff who has long aspired to boost Rome’s standing as a city of cinema, met De Niro in New York during last month’s Tribeca Film Festival and the pair had lunch in Rome last week.

The fest blueprint is being drafted by Mario Sesti, chief of the Auditorium’s cinema unit and a film critic, and Giorgio Gosetti, director of the Venice fest’s Venice Days sidebar and a former chief of Italo film promotion body Italia Cinema.

Their mandate is to come up with a strong showcase for international cinema, in particular for European films penalized by Mifed’s demise following the American Film Market’s decision to move into its fall dates.

However, it will not challenge the venerable Venice Film Festival in early September.

Rome’s fest is being shaped as an event where a large number of people can catch a wide selection of movies, similar to other metropolitan fests including Toronto, Rotterdam, London and New York’s Tribeca.

Official plans will be announced after this year’s Venice fest, one year before its scheduled debut.

The Festa Del Cinema’s budget is believed to be between E6 million and E8 million ($11 million and $14.6 million). This is being provided by Musica Per Roma, the partly private foundation that runs the Auditorium, which is headed by Goffredo Bettini.

Like Veltroni, Bettini is a leftist pol with a passion for cinema.

Designed as a music venue, Rome’s Auditorium has three theaters, two of which are used to screen movies, occasionally for gala premieres. While the Auditorium will become the fest’s hub, several other screens around Rome will be used.