A serious question mark is currently hanging over the head of Moritz De Hadlen's position as artistic director of the Venice Film Festival, after the Italian Parliament approved a new statute for the Venice Biennale, the body that manages the event on the Lido.

Culture minister Giuliano Urbani, who is known to have a fiery relationship with De Hadeln, refused to confirm the Swiss director's position as head of the Venice Festival when he presented the Biennale's new statute to the Italian Parliament this week.

The Berlusconi government's decision to modify the Biennale's statute means that the current board of directors, who had been appointed 18 months ago for a four-year term, will automatically have to be replaced.

The new board will then have to either confirm De Hadeln's position, or as seems increasingly likely, appoint a new director for the festival.

With eight months to go before the next Venice festival, the situation could therefore turn out to be exactly the same as it was in 2002, when De Hadeln was appointed in an emergency move just four months before the start of the event.

The Biennale's current board is due to meet on Monday 22nd December to discuss whether to confirm De Hadeln's position. However, it is now looks unlikely that the board will meet at all.

"Urbani doesn't feel that it is opportune for an outgoing board to name a festival director," local newspaper Il Corriere Del Veneto reported on Thursday.

Board member Severino Salvernini agreed that it is unlikely that De Hadeln will be reconfirmed on Monday.

"I don't think there is anything personal against him. But unless there is a miracle or an agreement with Urbani, it is difficult to imagine that the board will reconfirm De Hadeln. It would also mean slighting the state institutions, particularly since a reform is currently underway and a new board will have to be appointed anyway," Salvernini said.

"Then again, in Italy, anything is possible," he added.

On a more positive note, Urbani did heed widespread concern from the Italian film industry over the Biennale's autonomy, and modified his bill accordingly before he presented it to parliament.

As such, plans for the Biennale to have a special commission made up of Cinecitta, the National Film School and other organizations, have been dropped.

Last week, former Venice chief Felice Laudadio, who organized a meeting of former Venice directors to defend the festival's autonomy, said: "We hope that Moritz de Hadeln will be reconfirmed in his position as head of the festival in 2004. This would be a strong sign of autonomy from the Biennale."