|Venice film festival under threat as Italy slashes arts funding|
Italy's culture industry is close to revolt over government plans to slash arts funding by more than €260m per year. The proposed cuts could have dire consequences for the country's foremost cultural institutions, from Milan's La Scala opera house to the Venice Biennale.http://www.guardian.co.uk/italy/story/0,12576,1589405,00.html
Biennale president Davide Croff says the axe will fall hardest on the Venice film festival (pictured above) "If the cuts are confirmed and no alternatives are provided by the administration, the film festival is in serious danger," he said. "We are prepared to make further efficiencies, but not by this incredible amount. My personal view is that the budget will somehow be amended and a substantial part of the financing will be restored."
Workers' organisations and actors' unions in the Italian film industry have called for a strike, to be held on Friday, and they are urging theatres to follow suit. The film business is facing an estimated €30m funding reduction under the government's budget plans.
"Italy is not interested in the arts any more," the film-maker Roberto Benigni told La Repubblica. One of Begnini's films, the Holocaust drama Life Is Beautiful, won a clutch of Oscars in 1999. "In Italy, culture is being undervalued more and more, when we should in fact dedicate a lot of time, money and effort. We have so many great talents that should be nourished, and it's sad that this will not happen because we won't have the funds."
With elections due next year, Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is under pressure to curb his country's deficit and kickstart a sluggish economy. The arts cuts are just one part of a controversial budget, approved by ministers last week, that aims to reduce the deficit by €11bn. Civil service and healthcare professions are also feeling the pinch, and the budget is facing a rough ride from the parliament.
The minster for culture, Rocco Buttiglione, has said the cuts will be discussed further. "I don't intend closing this or that museum or theatre; the arts are a fundamental element of the identity of a country," he said.
Last month, the Italian government launched a shock advertising campaign showing images of mutilated artistic icons, from Michelangelo's David with a leg missing to Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper with the disciples scratched out. The advertisements featured the slogan: "Without your help, Italy could lose something," to persuade Italians to donate personally to the upkeep of their country's treasures.