After weeks of political machinations, intrigue and rumour, the Venice Film Festival has named former Berlin head Moritz De Hadeln (pictured)as artistic director of the next edition of the Biennale. De Hadeln replaces Alberto Barbera, who has been in charge of Venice since 1999.
Initial reaction to the last-minute, stop-gap appointment, which covers only the next edition of the festival, was largely one of relief;
With just five months to go before the start of the festival, most insiders agreed that only someone with extensive experience of running an international festival and an impressive industry address book would be able to pull off the feat in so short a time (see Screendaily, March 19) - De Hadeln, with his 20-year experience as head of the Berlinale, clearly fits the bill.
Significantly, the Biennale also underlined that the mandates for the artistic directors of each strand of the festival, including art, dance and theatre amongst others, would last either only one year or one edition, "in view of possible future modifications to the organisation's charter."
Implications are that the Venice Film Festival could eventually gain more autonomy and no longer have to depend on the politically-appointed Biennale to appoint its artistic director - or, more likely, that the mandates of artistic directors will be extended to cover more than the current four-year maximum, thereby avoiding the upheavals which currently occur whenever a new government is elected.
Meanwhile, De Hadeln becomes the first non-Italian to head the Venice Film Festival, an issue that has already provoked bitterness in some quarters. "Could they really not find an Italian'" local director Pasquale Squittieri said, adding, "I think that in Italy there are at least five people of any political inclination who could have been made directors of the festival."
Nevertheless, the fact that the British-born De Hadeln speaks fluent Italian, was at the head of the Berlinale in 2001 when a record-breaking nine Italian films screened at the festival, and as a foreigner, will be able to steer clear of the Biennale's political machinations, should help appease the critics.
Since he was controversially dismissed in 2001 from the Berlinale, De Hadeln, who grew up in Italy and Switzerland, has set up a Berlin-based consultancy with wife Erika, De Hadeln & Partners, to market their know-how and network of international contacts in the fields of festival and event management, talent scouting and brokering co-productions.
He has also recently served on the juries of the Moscow film festival and events in Tehran and Biarritz. A controversial figure in Berlin, where he was often criticised for being overly friendly towards the US studios, courting glamour and not being friendly enough towards local productions, De Hadeln will now be closely watched by all as he jumps into the troubled waters of Venice and attempts to pull together the festival's strings in five months. A tall order that few friends (or foes) will envy.