New Italian Culture Minister Takes a Swipe at Rome Film Fest

Giancarlo Galan says it's ''embarrassing'' that Italy has another event competing with the Venice Film Festival, the world's oldest.

ROME -- Italy’s newly installed Minister of Culture took a swipe at the International Rome Film festival in an interview in Friday’s edition of La Stampa, saying it was “extravagant” and too costly for Italy to be home to two major film festivals.

Gian Carlo Galan, who took over as Minister of Culture from the beleaguered Sandro Bondi only on Wednesday, said the country should back the 68-year-old Venice Film Festival with all its resources.

“It would be ridiculous for Rome not to be connected to cinema, given its history, but to also host a festival in competition with Venice is extravagant,” Galan told the Turin-based daily. “Indeed, giving funding limitations, the current situation is likely to weaken both events.”

Galan -- who hails from Padova, 30 miles west of Venice -- said it was “embarrassing” that Italy backed a Rome festival in competition with Venice, the world’s oldest film festival.

Galan’s comments sparked an immediate response from Gianni Alemanno, the Rome mayor, who warned Galan, “The Rome festival should not be touched.” Alemanno was swept into power in 2008 in part by campaigning against the Rome festival, which was started in 2006 by then-mayor Walter Veltroni, an Alemanno rival.

Alemanno said then that Rome had too many problems to invest resources in a film festival. But since then, he has come to support the festival and staff members have said he now sees it as a calling card for the city that raises its visibility and draws visitors and investment.

Similarly, the Rome and Venice festivals clashed many times in the first years of Rome’s existence. But now they co-exist mostly without issue.

“The controversy between Rome and Venice has been resolved,” Alemanno said. “A minister of the republic should unite and not divide by reopening contentious issues.” As Minister of Culture, Galan oversees the FUS, the country’s most important fund used to support cultural activities. Resources from the FUS are used to support both Venice and Rome, as well as lower-profile festivals in Italy, such as Turin and Taormina, in addition to a wide array of other activities. 

But Alemanno said that the government’s direct support of the International Rome Film Festival was minimal: totaling just €200,000 ($280,000), compared to €7 million ($9.8 million) directed to Venice last year. Most of the Rome festival’s estimated €12.5 million ($17.5 million) budget comes from local and regional government spending and from private sponsors.