With just fivemonths to go before the start of the next Venice Film Festival and still no newartistic director to run it, Aurelio De Laurentiis, the head of Italy's producers union, has threatened not to present any Italian films in the upcoming festival unless Venice Biennale president Franco Bernabe appoints newmanagement before the end of this week.

Although Italian films usually have a strong presence on the Lido, De Laurentiis says he fears the delays in appointing new artistic director will invariably damage Italiancinema and the international community's view of it.

In a statementaddressed to Bernabe, and the president of the Venice region Giancarlo Galanand the president of the Venice province, Luigino Busatto, De Laurentiis said:"The slowness with which the festival's new board of directors is beingappointed is causing a serious delay in the festival's organisation. This couldlead to a shadow of uncertainty being cast over the country's entire filmproduction. It could also damage the opportunity the prestigious festival givesof showcasing Italian film on an international level."

He continued:"Having taken these alarming issues into consideration, the NationalProducers Union hopes a new director will be appointed before the end of theweek. If not, we will have to reconsider our relationship with the Biennale andwill see ourselves forced to not present any Italian films in the festival.That way, we will be able to safeguard Italian cinema, filmmakers, and theheritage we have built through years of careful and hard work."

A wave ofuncertainty has hovered over Venice ever since Silvio Berlusconi's centre-rightgovernment swept to power last May. While artistic director Alberto Barberastill had one more year left in his contract, Venice's board of directors wasexpected to be replaced as part of a wider shake-up at national filminstitutions, whose management had been appointed by the previous centre-leftgovernment.

At the end ofJanuary, the Biennale's board of directors resigned en masse following theousting of Biennale president Paolo Baratta, who was replaced by newgovernment-appointee Franco Bernabe, a former head of Telecom Italia.

According toVenice protocol, a new board of directors was due to be appointed within 45days. They, in turn, are to appoint a new artistic director for the festival.

While MarinaCicogna, a film producer believed to carry Urbani's personal endorsement, wasuntil recently considered the main frontrunner for the job, comments she made publicly set off a backlash ofcriticism, and she is now out of the race. Among thenames currently being bandied around are former Locarnohead Marco Mueller and Italian film director Lina Wertmueller.