Veteran Italian director Pupi Avati has been namedpresident of Cinecitta Holding, the parent company of the famed Rome-basedCinecitta Studios where Martin Scorsese shot his Gangs Of New York epic.

Avati - whose own credits as a filmmaker include 2001's ICavalieri Che Fecero L'Impresa and upcomingperiod drama Il Cuore Altrove - replaces Taormina festival chiefFelice Laudadio, whose contract with Cinecitta expires at the end of thismonth.

Cinecitta Holding owns Istituto Luce, the Rome-based statedistributor that is also involved in exhibition and film production. It is alsoa shareholder of the Italian capital's fabled studios and promotional film bodyItalia Cinema.

Avati's appointment is the latest in a general shake up at thehelm of all state-backed companies operating in the Italian film sector. SinceSilvio Berlusconi's centre-right government swept to power in May 2001, managerialarmchairs have swiveled at the Venice Film Festival, the Venice Biennale, statebroadcaster RAI Cinema, Italia Cinema and the National Italian Film School.

As president of Cinecitta Holding, Avati will be responsible foroverseeing the company's considerable involvement in digital film production,as well as film restoration and worldwide retrospectives on film stars anddirectors.

As part of its investment in digital film, the company last yearestablished a prestigious Digital Prize, and funded six 20-minute digitalshorts for an average budget of Euros 25,000 per film. The films, produced bysome of Italy's leading independent producers, were grouped together into a singlemovie, which was released theatrically by Istituto Luce. Cinecitta is currentlyfunding a further three digital shorts for an average of Euros 40,000.

Meanwhile, Italian Cultural Minister Giuliani Urbani also namedCinecitta Holding's board members: These are Francesco Alberoni, alreadydirector of Rome's National Film School, Gaetano Blandini, Ubaldo Livolsi,lawyer Michele Lo Foco, Angelo Maria Petroni, Francesco Pionati, AlessandroUsai and Marcello Veneziani.