Italian festivals reignite war of words


ROME -- The acrimony between Italy's venerable Venice Film Festival and its two-year-old rival in the Italian capital flared again over the weekend, when the president of the region that includes Venice declared that the RomaCinemaFest should have never been created.

The comments sparked an angry response from RomaCinemaFest president Goffredo Bettini, who dismissed the comment from Veneto Regional President Giancarlo Galan and called on his counterparts in Venice -- Biennale president Davide Croff and Venice artistic director Marco Mueller -- to rebuff Galan.

This is not the first time that Venice -- which will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year -- has clashed with the deep-pocketed Rome festival. Venice blasted Rome last year for the timing of certain announcements, and the two have exchanged blows over scheduling that saw Rome start just five weeks after Venice concluded and over comments from officials about the prestige of each other's lineups.

But while officials from each continue to raise eyebrows when discussing the other in private, the events have gone to great lengths to put forward a cooperative public image.

The two festivals have publicly vowed to peacefully co-exist, and are even co-presenting a retrospective on Spaghetti Westerns that will see separate groups of rediscovered and restored versions of old Italian-made cowboy flicks screen at both events.

But the strong comments from Galan put the rivalry firmly in the public eye again.

"Only a provincial idiot would get the idea that Rome should organize a festival that immediately sets itself up as an alternative to Venice," Galan said, according to comments published in the local media and confirmed by his office. "Our competition is not Rome, it is only the great festivals like Cannes."

Bettini, meanwhile, declined to attack Galan -- who he said he "has no expectations of" -- but rather called on Croff and Mueller to "distance themselves from Galan's attack." Bettini went on to say that Rome was as eager as ever to work with Venice.

"We all continue to do everything to maintain the rapport of reciprocal collaboration with the Venice Biennale in the hope of re-enforcing the image of Italian cinema throughout the world," Bettini said.

Venice officials declined comment on the situation when contacted, saying only that Galan spoke of his own accord and not on behalf of the festival.