Filmitalia’s future at stake

Cinecitta Holding may absorb company

ROME — The future of Filmitalia, Italy’s film promo body, is triggering turmoil in the country’s cinematic community on the eve of crucial national elections.

Dozens of the nation’s top helmers, including Nanni Moretti, Gabriele Muccino, Marco Bellocchio, and producers such as Domenico Procacci and Roberto Cicutto, are up in arms over a move by parent company Cinecitta Holding to absorb Filmitalia. They fear the restructuring is a euphemism for eventual elimination, or at best will hamper Filmitalia’s performance.

Besides Filmitalia, Cinecitta Holding oversees state film entity Istituto Luce, founded in the fascist era, ailing exhibition outfit Cineplex and holds a 25% stake in the partly privatized Cinecitta Studios, once Fellini’s second home and now the set for the eighth “Big Brother” series.

“Small is beautiful,” says Filmitalia prexy Irene Bignardi. “Our structure works well the way it is. Being part of a bigger machine would deprive us of the cohesion that comes with being on a small ship.”

“It’s going to make things harder, more bureaucratic; it will make it impossible for Filmitalia to operate swiftly,” concurs helmer Daniele Luchetti, whose dramedy “My Brother Is an Only Child” is presently playing to critical kudos and high per-screen averages in London and New York.

In an open letter to Italy’s auteurs, Cinecitta Holding prexy Alessandro Battisti last month assured he has no intention of shutting Filmitalia down, changing its name, or even its modus operandi, which begs the question: why change anything at all?

Battisti is calling Filmitalia’s direct absorption into Cinecitta a mere cost-cutting move, though he says he doesn’t want to ax any jobs. He has called for a public debate with filmmakers, producers and Bignardi, to explain how it would save coin. The rationale circulating among some Italo industryites is that bloated Cinecitta Holding desperately needs a more direct connection to Italy’s mini Unifrance to bolster its raison d’etre.

Ironically these discussions over Filmitalia’s fate took place just as Italy contended with the results of April 13-14 national elections pitting two-time premier and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi and Rome’s film buff former mayor Walter Veltroni.

The fact that Cinecitta’s board just went ahead and voted to abolish Filmitalia’s formal autonomy right before elections is considered by many a sleight of hand, because in Italy a new government usually ushers in new regimes in state entities like Cinecitta Holding. So what will happen?

“I’ll see if there are the right conditions for me to stay on,” says Bignardi.

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