Romanian film rocks the boat at Venice fest

Two Italian leaders are seeking to censor 'Francesca'

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VENICE -- Politics reared its head on the Venice Lido over the weekend, when two leading political figures objected to a Romanian film screening out of competition at the Venice Film Festival and called for it to be blocked if a few key phrases are not removed.

"Francesca," a drama from Romanian director Bobby Paunescu, tells the story of Romanian girl considering emigrating to Italy. While discussing the possibility with her mother, harsh words emerged in reference to parliamentarian Alessandra Mussolini (the granddaughter of former Italian strongman leader Benito Mussolini) and Verona mayor Flavio Tosi -- both known for strong anti-immigrant stances.

Mussolini is referred to a "bitch that wants to kill Romanians," and Tosi is called a "shitty mayor." The two leaders want the offending phrases removed, and Mussolini has threatened to sue the film's producers and block its distribution in Italy.

Paunescu told journalists he will not change the film, and said the comments were based on public comments Mussolini and Tosi have made in the past.

"These two have said some very serious things on television," he said. "The film is not based on a fiction."

The issue of Romanians is a polarizing one in Italy, where they make up the largest single immigrant population and are sometimes linked to rising crime rates. The ruling government coalition, which includes both Mussolini and Tosi, has taken steps in recent months to make it more difficult for Romanians and other foreigners to legally take up residence in Italy.