Gabriel Range's Death Of A President has already hit a nerve in Italy, where ahead of its March 16th opening 30% of planned exhibitors have backed out of showing the film and 600 out of 2,000 promotional posters have disappeared in Rome.

Andrea Occhipinti, president of the film's Italian distributor Lucky Red, says the film was originally set for a 100-print run is now at about 70 copies nationwide. The UK-produced hypothetical drama imagines the assasination of George W Bush.

Part of the problem, Occhipinti says, stemmed from an article published in left-leaning Italian daily La Stampa in which a reader lamented the film's 'bad taste' and in consequence, programming cancellations grew.

Occhipinti says there were tensions surrounding the film's release before the article. 'Exhibitors were claiming that they don't want any trouble,' he says. Cancellations have come from major chains as well as single exhibitors.

In addition to the cancellations, around 600 of the 2,000 'teaser'

posters splattered across the capitol city have gone missing. The poster depicts a tombstone with the fictional date of death set in the film (October 19, 2007). Occhipinti says they 'have no idea' why the posters have disappeared. 'I don't know if they are stolen as a souvenir or removed as a protest,' he says.

While Italy, normally a very politically sensitive nation, met Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 with open arms, the fate of Death Of A President isn't clear yet.

But Occhipinti said the lure to distribute the title came to him during its Toronto International Film Festival screenings. 'The death of democracy as a very actual theme that provokes a series of important questions,' he said.

He also added that the indie distributor doesn't shy away from controversial films that spark debate, working with gay marriage feature Reinas, political documentary Vivz Zapaterro and Catholic abuse drama The Magdelene Sisters.