Italian culture minister reaches out

10:49 AM PST 05/09/2008 by Eric J. Lyman, AP

Sandro Bondi embraces country's filmmakers

ROME -- Italy's new minister of culture tried to calm the waters between the government and the film industry Friday, announcing that he would seek to prove that the new Italian government could be a friend to culture and film.

The new center-right government -- led by media magnate Silvio Berlusconi -- was sworn in Friday. New Minister of Culture Sandro Bondi immediately went to work, seeking to set himself up as a friend of the arts.

"I've seen all the films of (auteur and left-wing activist Nanni) Moretti, and I loved them," Bondi said. "I want to go meet with (two-time Oscar-nominated director Franco) Zeffirelli and ask him for advice about my new job."

Berlusconi, who controls broadcast giant Mediaset and film distributor and producer Medusa, defeated former Rome Mayor and RomaCinemaFest founder Walter Veltroni in voting last month.

Two weeks later, Gianni Alemanno defeated Veltroni ally and former minister of culture Francesco Rutelli to become mayor of Rome, immediately vowing to scale back the three-year-old RomaCinemaFest.

The fate of the Rome festival is still undecided, but events have fostered the view that the government is against the cinema industry. On Friday, Bondi sought to change that view.

"Culture is not the property of the right or the left," he said. "It's just culture."
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