ROME – Steven Van Zandt will head the jury of the the Rome Fiction Fest dedicated to TV series which will feature the festival world preem of  hotly anticipated diamond-heist skein “The Last Panthers” and also the bow of Italo helmer Marco Tullio Giordana’s “Lea” about a heroic woman who turns state’s evidence against the mob, among other high-profile offerings.

Van Zandt’s show “Lilyhammer,” in which he plays a New York mobster hiding in Norway thanks to his witness protection program, has struck a chord in Italy where it plays on Murdoch-owned Sky Atlantic paybox.

Rome will screen episode one of “The Last Panthers,” which is based on the real criminal exploits of the Balkan gang known as the Pink Panthers on November 11. The six-part Sky-Canal Plus co-prod toplines Samantha Morton, Tahar Rahim (“A Prophet”), and (“We Will Be the Champions”) and John Hurt and boasts a David Bowie title track. Sky Atlantic will launch it in the U.K. on November 12.

The Rome Fiction Fest, which runs November 11-15, will also pay homage to late great Italian director and screenwriter Sergio Sollima. Sollima gained international cult status with a trio of groundbreaking spaghetti Westerns comprising Lee Van Cleef-starrer “The Big Gundown,” but was best known in Italy for exotic Indian pirate TV miniseries “Sandokan.” He died in July. Bollywood star Kabir Bedi, who played the titular 19th century Indian pirate in “Sandokan,” is making the trek to Rome for a “Sandokan” marathon.

Now at its ninth edition, the Eternal City event serves the vital purpose of injecting innovation into Italy’s growing but still thematically static TV production sector and bringing international shows to local auds in an effort to broaden their horizons. This year it’s become a sister event of the Rome Film Festival and is run by Piera Detassis who heads the Cinema per Roma foundation, the parent org which oversees both.