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Rome challenge to Venice film fest

Venice, Sept. 10 (Reuters): Italians are bracing themselves for blood on the red carpet as Rome launches its own film festival next month in what many see as a challenge to Venice.

As the Lido wrapped up an 11-day movie marathon with a controversial top prize for China’s Still Life, organisers of the world’s oldest international film festival looked nervously to the Eternal City.

After vag-ue pledges of cooperation between the two events, a gentlemanly truce was broken when the Venice festival director Marco Muller told Italian state television that Rome would screen “films that neither we or Cannes wanted”.

Rome organisers, who scored a major coup by signing up Nicole Kidman to open their festival with the premiere of Fur, angrily called Muller’s comments “an incredible offence to the filmmakers who are showing their work in Rome”.

In a bid to soothe tempers, Italy’s culture minister Francesco Rutelli stepped in, asking Rome to reconsider the dates of its festival — currently slotted to start on October 13, perhaps too close for Venice’s comfort.

The growing spat reflects Venice’s anxiety over its infrastructure. Impartial observers may find the debate futile. Many film critics on the Lido said another Italian festival can only help the country’s cinema industry by giving it more visibility.

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