Asthe Venice Film Festival draws to an end, artistic director Marco Mueller canbreathe a sigh of relief: he has managed to largely satisfy the critics withhis selection, while also ironing out the organisational problems that marredlast year's event.
However,Mueller's eye is also firmly placed on the festival's appeal as a business-place- and he has warned again that next year will definitely be his last in Venice- unless the Biennale finally agrees to establish a proper market.
Whilebuyers, sellers and producers who attend the Venice festival agree that itsrelaxing, informal atmosphere is a welcome change from other industry events,they also point out that the Lido has become too expensive to justify a simplepleasure trip.
Deal-makingthis year has been soft, with many distributors flying in to the Lido for justthree days, before moving on to the Toronto Film Festival with the aim ofsigning contracts there.
Muelleris only too aware of the festival's shortfall on the business front. He arguesthat Venice can't continue without a market. But what is particularlyfrustrating, he says, is that Venice already has the infrastructure to host amarket: with its four spacious floors, the Lido Casino is big enough to house amarket - and is in fact bigger than the area that hosts the market in Berlin.
Butit still looks as if Mueller has an uphill struggle on his hands.
Ata press conference on Thursday, Biennale president Davide Croff said the Casino- which was built by his grandfather - has ceilings that are too high to housea market. Instead, he said the festival is willing to set up a temporary marketstructure and a permanent market-place when the new Palazzo del Cinema isfinally built.
However,there is still no concrete time-frame. And in Mueller's eyes at least, theclock is ticking.
"Eitherthey set up a market, or I will go," Mueller told ScreenDaily.com.
Witheverything in Italy being political, however, it looks like Mueller will haveto wait until national elections in April 2006 before he gets either thegreenlight from the Biennale or a final veto on his market plans.
Inthe meantime, politicians have been backing a nascent festival to be held inRome in 2006, which could even host a market itself.
Ata packed press conference in Venice, opposition politician and Rome mayorWalter Veltroni presented the outline of the capital's new festival, "CINEMA,Rome International Festival" which is planned as a high-profile internationalevent.
The9-day festival, to be held in Rome's music Auditorium, from October 13th-21st,2006,
willbe headed by general manager Giorgio Gosetti and head of the directors'committee Mario Sesti, an Italian film critic. Former Locarno deputy chief Teresa Cavina is in charge of the international side and the editor of Italy's Ciak Magazine Piera De Tassis will be responsible for galas.
Witha Euros 7m budget to be funded by the Lazio region and private investors,Veltroni said the event will involve the entire city, offering premieres,retrospectives, tributes, seminars and debates with the public.
Yetthere are unequivocal similarities between the new Rome and Venice festivals:Rome will host 80 films, have a jury, screen films from internationalfilmmakers, and have "an area for film professionals". There has even been talkof Rome replacing MIFED as an autumn market-place for European product.
Despitewidespread scepticism, both Biennale and Rome organizers were at pains onThursday to underline that there should be no competition between both events.Instead, the festivals expect to collaborate, particularly on retrospectives.
"TheRome festival intends to be an appointment that complements the prestigiousVenetian showcase, which precedes it by a month," Rome organizers said.
Ultimately,it was culture minister Rocco Buttiglione who perhaps best summed up the marketdilemma.
"Theredefinitely has to be a market somewhere, and there has been a lot of talk," hesaid. "The question now is where. Venice' Milan' Rome'"