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Italian industry group backs Marco Mueller for Rome job

Aiming to quell a month of political infighting over the fate of the Rome Film Festival, Anica, the Italian motion pictures association, has issued a statement today backing Marco Mueller as the “right solution” as artistic director of Italy’s second festival.

The powerful statement - coming from the highest cinema industry body in Italy - calms the storm unleashed after Mueller became a free-agent when his mandate as Venice artistic director was not reinstated late December, despite eight successful years at the helm of that event.

In fact, the Italian festival sector has spun into turmoil after the Biennale arts association named respected industry professional and former Venice director Alberto Barbara to Venice’s top post. Italian newspapers immediately speculated about a fresh rivalry between Venice and Rome. At the same time, in regards to Rome, influential government and festival figures used the culture pages to express their individual wills.

So in aiming to quiet the din, Anica took some power back to the industry court saying, “Anica considers the festival system as fundamental to the national cinema industry…both Venice and Rome have to function at their highest…for this Anica expresses concern over the extreme precariousness that has taken over the Festival of Rome…. due to …excessive influence of [political]parties … at this point it seems to us the only right solution… is the nomination of Marco Mueller as artistic director…. Anica is backing this candidate …[in order to] guarantee its autonomy in respect to political parties.”

Debates surrounding Rome, and Mueller, first flared when in early January, Renata Polverini, influential Governor of the Lazio region (where Rome is located), told daily Il Messaggero she wanted Mueller to take over at Rome. Polverini also convinced Rome’s mayor Gianni Alemanno to back Mueller. The region and the municipality hold two votes on the five-seat board that votes on key issues relevant to the festival, including directorship and budget.

The backing of the two right wing politicians is a significant message as to the fest’s growing relevance, both as a cultural event and as a financial investment. (When Rome held its debut in 2006, Rome’s right wing politicians were largely against the event).

But Rome foundation president Gian Luigi Rondi, who is close to Rome’s artistic director since 2008, Piera Detassis, refused to back Mueller. Without out his nomination, the vote would be put off until his mandate expires - next summer - leaving Rome in a stall.

In response, Polverini threatened to pull $3.7m (E2.8m) in funding, a significant portion of Rome’s circa $16.5 m (E12.5m) budget.

Anica also addressed the fact that politics has long been a bane to Rome’s existence: “the excessive influence of [political] parties, the original sin from which this event has to free itself, has generated senseless conflict and conduct…”

While the outlook for Mueller has shifted back and forth in the past six weeks, Anica, which is presided over by Cattleya partner Riccardo Tozzi, has made the will of the cinema communities needs front and centre of the debate.

An official vote from the Rome Film Festival board of directors to nominate a new artistic director for Rome is expected later this month.

In addition to an artistic director, Rome will also need to appoint a new head of its market event The Business Street after prominent industry figure Roberto Cicutto, who heads Cinecitta Luce, stepped down after the last edition.

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