Italy's national association of independent film directors and producers, API, has released a strongly worded statement denouncing political interference in the Venice Film Festival.

API also urged Biennale president Franco Bernabe' not to resign from his position.

API's move comes after culture minister Giuliano Urbani failed to reconfirm Venice artistic director Moritz de Hadeln, who has overseen the Lido event since 2002. (see Dec 19)

Instead, Urbani pushed through parliament a decree changing the statute of the Biennale. As a result, the current board of directors will automatically have to be replaced - and the new board will subsequently be expected to appoint a new director for the festival.

"The whole matter relating to Biennale decree just shows once again how dangerous it is for politicians to try to control Italian culture institutions," API said.

"It is this same attitude in previous years that forced [ex-Venice director] Alberto Barbera and [former Biennale president] Paolo Baratta to leave their jobs, despite everybody believing they had done some excellent work," API head Angelo Barbagallo added.

Barbagallo warned that the current political climate could now force Biennale president Franco Bernabe', who was appointed by Urbani, to leave his position too.

Should Bernabe' leave, the board of directors who are due to meet on Monday (Dec 22) to reconfirm De Hadeln as festival chief, will not meet, further stalling the appointment of a festival director.

In 2002, De Hadeln himself was appointed with just four months to go before the start of the festival. "Any more delays now will force whoever replaces De Hadeln to once again have to work in a state of emergency," Barbagallo said.

"This would further damage the image of the Venice Film Festival, which has already been hurt enough."

API urged Bernabe' not to leave his position. "The only thing we can hope for right now, is for Bernabe' to resist, resist, resist."