Italian government appears unlikely to pick up bill of removing asbestos

The future of the Venice film festival’s much vaunted new Palazzo del Cinema looks under renewed threat. In Cannes today (May 12) Giancarlo Galan, Italy’s minister of cultural heritage and activities, made some sharply worded remarks about the likely costs of the new Palazzo following the discovery of asbestos on the construction site and strongly suggested that the government would not be prepared to continue picking up the bill.

Galan estimated that the cost of removing the asbestos would be €15m. The minister said that €20m had been spent already on the construction of the new building.

“The situation of the renovation of the Palazzo is bad,” Galan commented. “More money is needed. I don’t really know how we will solve this situation.”

He added that spending extra taxpayer money to extract the asbestos was “something that we cannot do” and that “goes against my dignity as a citizen”.

The minister also called for the Venice Lido to offer “services” all the year round – and not just during the annual film festival.

Whatever the construction and logistical problems that currently afflict the Venice festival, Galan told a packed audience at the Italian Pavilion in Cannes that Venice remained the pre-eminent festival in Italy. The minister made it very clear that he regarded Venice as a more important event internationally than the Rome festival.

“They (Rome and Venice) are two different festivals and they must continue to be very different. The Rome festival is being called a Festa while the Venice Festival is the festival in Italy,” the minister commented. “We should clear any doubt about competition between Rome and Venice. They are two very different festivals…the important exposure at an international level is the Venice film festival.”