Leading lightsin the Italian film industry joined a nationwide strike on FridayOctober 14, which closed down all cinemas, theatres and opera houses fora day and sent thousands to the streets to picket

outside theItalian Parliament. Those that tookpart included producers Aurelio De Laurentiis, Domenico

Procacci, RaiCinema chief Giancarlo Leone and actor-director Roberto Benigni, who sawthe release of his latest film, The Tiger and The

Snow, delayed by one day because of thestrike. Thedemonstration in central Rome was called to protest against massive

new cuts togovernment funding. In its 2006 budget proposal, the SilvioBerlusconi government set out a paltry Euros 50m to support film - comparedto Euros 84m last year. Overall, it plans to slash the entertainmentfund by a huge 40%.

"Reducing thefund by 40% means closing down the entertainment industry. It's like sayinglet's close the Trevi Fountain because it's not

making enoughmoney and build a fast-food restaurant on the site

instead," saidAlberto Francesconi, head of national entertainment body Agis. Those present atthe demonstration also included director Marco Tullio

Giordana,Istituto Luce head Luciano Sovena and Venice artistic director Marco Mueller.

The Venice FilmFestival is one of the organisations that will be

directlyaffected by the cuts if the government's budget proposal are approved bythe Parliament.

Like manyothers, powerful Italian producer Aurelio De Laurentiis appealeddirectly to the Italian prime minister.

"Dear Silvio, yougot rich thanks to cinema. Don't underestimate it. It's notabout saving millions of euros, it's about earning billions.

Benigni alsojoined in the chorus. "You can't destroy dreams," he said. "It's 4.21pm. I will say only these words: Berlusconi, Berlusconi,