Former Rome Film Festival director Marco Mueller has been appointed chief consultant to the Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF) as the five-year-old festival strives to become a world-class event.

Marco Mueller

Mueller will advise the fifth edition of the festival on programming and operations, while his team of consultants will also work on various strands of the programming.

The fifth edition of BJIFF will run April 16-23.

Mueller stepped down from Rome Film Festival at the end of his three-year term on December 31.

He previously headed International Film Festival Rotterdam from 1989 to 1991, Locarno from 1991 to 2000 and Venice from 2004 to 2011.

A long-time champion of Chinese and Asian cinema, Mueller speaks fluent Mandarin after studying in China in the 1970s.

He was invited to the first BJIFF in 2011 as a special guest and made a keynote speech at the opening ceremony.

It is understood that he was also recently in talks with Shanghai International Film Festival about a similar position.

Organised by Beijing city government, which had no prior experience of running a film festival, BJIFF was in need of international expertise as it has so far struggled to challenge longer-established festivals with its programming and events.

The first edition, held in 2011, famously featured a flashy opening ceremony - reminiscent of the 2008 Beijing Olympics - but no opening film.

However, the event has attracted strong international attention and high-profile guests, as it is based at the centre of the world’s fastest-growing film market, and recent editions have proved that the organisers are listening to outside advice.

The festival has also reached out to the international film community with delegations and networking receptions at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Asian Film Market at the Busan International Film Festival.