RomaCinemaFest addresses Loren gaffe

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ROME -- Well, goodness gracious me! Rome failed to invite its own doyenne of cinema Sophia Loren to its big new film festival -- and looked to make good by asking her to come next year instead.

Nicole Kidman, Monica Bellucci and Sean Connery were among those in attendance at the inaugural RomaCinemaFest this week, Loren found herself left out of the party. La Stampa newspaper ran a front-page headline: "La Loren Furiosa."

But there were no apologies Wednesday for the iconic star from the organizers of RomaCinemaFest.

"We had already decided to make Sophia Loren the star of the second edition of the festival, so there should be no controversy," Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni said Wednesday. "We didn't invite her this year because we hoped she would be the guest of honor next year, just as Sean Connery was this time."

It was Veltroni who came up with the idea for the Rome festival two years ago.

Loren confirmed in a statement that she would be "honored and pleased" to play a central role in next year's festival.

Loren's decision to accept the invitation for the second RomaCinemaFest had been the subject of speculation for several days, ever since Italian Parliament member Alessandra Mussolini -- granddaughter of Italy's fascist dictator and Loren's niece -- blasted festival organizers for excluding the legendary actress.

The spat, however, did not deter from the day-to-day business of the festival, which returned to a full schedule Wednesday after many events were postponed or canceled the day before in the wake of a Rome metro accident that left one person dead and more than 100 injured.

Full houses greeted the highly anticipated screening of Giuseppe Tornatore's "La Sconosciuta" (The Unknown) and Shane Meadows' "This Is England" on Wednesday. Meadows' feature tells the story of a group of British skinheads in the early 1980s.

Also making news Wednesday was an announcement from four major regional film commissions to cooperate on seeding about six new films per year starting in 2007, agreeing to a ?3 million ($3.8 million) budget for the initiative. The commissions involved are Berlin-Brandenburg, Roma-Lazio, the Ile de France Film Commission (Paris) and the Madrid Film Commission.
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