Cineastes, Romans ...

Election could bode ill for RomaCinemaFest

Former parliamentarian Gianni Alemanno is your next Rome mayor, a development that could be bad news for the three-year-old RomaCinemaFest.

In what many are calling an upset victory, Alemanno — candidate of the same center-right coalition that backed media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi's successful bid for prime minister two weeks ago — held a comfortable 53.3%-to-46.7% advantage over former Minister of Culture and Mayor Francesco Rutelli, with 95% of the votes counted.

Although fighting illegal immigration was the main plank of Alemanno's campaign, he also has said he believes the RomaCinemaFest should be downsized and de-emphasized in the city's budget.

The festival, founded by Rutelli ally Walter Veltroni, played a central role in Alemanno's ads, some of which contrasted the festival's star-studded red carpet with immigrant shanty towns on the edge of town and city streets filled with potholes.

One widely distributed print ad carried the slogan "Alemanno, for less cinema and more security."

In remarks during the campaign, Alemanno said he would look to replace some of the festival's main directors, shrink the festival staff of 650 and reduce the festival's €15 million ($23.9 million) budget by at least €1 million ($1.6 million). Rutelli, in contrast, indicated he had no changes for the festival in store.

RomaCinemaFest officials were not available for comment, but leading up to the runoff, festival officials said they did not believe Alemanno was set on reducing the size of the festival.

"No mayor can make decisions by edict," a festival spokesman told Rome newspaper Il Messaggero.

Backed by an enthusiastic and deep-pocketed city government, the RomaCinemaFest in a short time emerged as a rival to the ven-erable Venice Film Festival. (partialdiff)