Bond film and achtivists

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Bond film and achtivists

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James Bond has battled his way out of many a tight spot in the past but a potent foe awaits him in his latest adventure. Can he survive a campaign by animal rights activists who claim that horses will be killed or maimed in the making of the latest 007 film?

The next Bond film is to reach its climax in a chase against the background of the Palio, the centuries-old and controversial bareback horse race in the historic Tuscan hill town of Siena.

The cameras start to roll this Thursday, when the Palio is due to be run. Animal rights campaigners seized on the disclosure to protest that the film would glamorise a race that was “a relic of medieval brutality”. They say that 50 horses have been killed since 1970, with many others injured.

The next Bond, the 22nd in the 007 canon and a sequel to the phenomenally successful Casino Royale, has yet to be given a title and is referred to simply as Bond 22. Directed by Marc Forster, it again stars Daniel Craig as Bond, with Judi Dench as M.

The plot is being kept under wraps. However, the town council at Siena has given permission for a climax in which Bond chases the villain through the steep and narrow cobbled streets and then pursues him across the rooftops and through the underground medieval aqueducts, while the horses thunder round the Campo, the main square.

The film-makers have agreed to “strict conditions” obliging them to treat the race with “full respect”, according to Il Giornale. They are forbidden from showing any violence “involving either people or animals” that may occur. This week’s filming will focus on the race, with scenes involving actors inserted later. There will be 14 cameras placed at strategic positions around the arena but helicopters have been banned.

The brief and intense Palio, run on packed sand in the Campo, is not a tourist attraction but a fiercely cherished part of the Sienese way of life dating back to the 11th century. It is preceded by weeks of build-up and colourful pageantry, with each horse representing one of the 17 contrade, or city guilds.

Three years ago animal welfare activists called for it to be banned when an eight-year-old chestnut bay died of a broken neck after it collided with another horse on the notorious San Martino bend. Television viewers witnessed the horse being dragged away by its hind legs.

The Italian AntiVivisection League said that continuing to hold the Palio was “madness”. Eleonora di Giuseppe, spokeswoman for the Italian Federation of Equestrian Sport, said yesterday that using the Palio in a Bond film would glamorise a race “in which horses are exposed to unacceptable risks”.

She said that Italy’s historic traditions were to be valued “but the problem is that the Palio, like other local festivals, is not subject to central state controls. We want a national law that will guarantee standards of animal safety. We are not living in the Middle Ages, we are living in 2007.” She said that in former times heavy horses more suited to the course were used “but now they use thoroughbreds”.

Margherita D’Amico, an animal rights campaigner, said the race was barbaric. “I have nothing against traditions but some are outdated. There was a time when young men were castrated to preserve their soprano voices – but we don’t do that any more,” she said.

The Palio is held twice a year, on festivals dedicated to the Virgin Mary – July 2, the Feast of the Visitation, and August 16, the day after the Feast of the Assumption (Ferragosto), the Italian August bank holiday. The Campo is always packed with tens of thousands of spectators in an atmosphere bordering on hysteria. In the morning the horses are blessed in their contrada’s churches. The race runs for three laps of the Campo and the winner is awarded a palio, a banner of painted silk. Palio races are also run in other Italian cities such as Ferrara, where last year three horses had to be destroyed and police used teargas to control rioting. The race was annulled.

When Tony Blair attended the Siena Palio in 1999, Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid, commented: “It is a primitive spectacle that appeals to the worst instincts in human nature.”

Bond 22, made by EON Productions, was originally due for release in May next year – the centenary of Ian Fleming’s birth – but has been delayed until November 2008. The screenplay is by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis, who also wrote the screenplay for Casino Royale from the book by Fleming. Craig has hinted that the new film continues the storyline of Casino Royale in that Bond “goes out for revenge”.

Bribery and violence

— One of the few rules is that jockeys are not allowed to grab their opponents’ reins. They are allowed to whip other horses or knock other riders off their horses

— Bribery, doping and general skulduggery are considered reasonable tactics. The multiple winner Andrea De Gortes happily admitted bribing a starter £25,000 in 1992, saying: “It was peanuts”

— In 2002 fierce local rivalries turned to violence in which a jockey was beaten up and six people were put under house arrest

Source: ANSA, Times archives, agencies ... 246486.ece
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