Gianni Alemanno wins upset victory in Rome

RomaCinemaFest could be downsized

ROME -- Former parliamentarian Gianni Alemanno is your next mayor of Rome, 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, who was elected 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 euros ($23.9 million) budget by at least 1 million euros ($1.6 million). Rutelli, in contrast, indicated he had no changes for the festival in store.

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

"Plans for the RomaCinemaFest will be decided on in good time with the proper consultations," a festival spokesman told the Rome daily Il Messaggero. "No mayor can make decisions by edict."

Backed by an enthusiastic and deep-pocketed city government, the RomaCinemaFest in a short time emerged as a rival to the venerable Venice Film Festival, which will hold its 65th edition this year.

Veltroni, who announced the creation of the festival in 2005, stepped down as mayor this year to face Berlusconi in the race for prime minister.