Right-wing journalist and writer Pietrangelo Buttafuoco has been nominated by Italian culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano to take over as chairman of the Venice Biennale Foundation which runs the Venice Film Festival.

He will replace Roberto Cicutto when the latter’s term ends in March. Buttafuoco’s nomination requires parliamentary approval but is regarded as a formality.

Italian newswire ANSA described Buttafuoco as “one of Italy’s top public intellectuals and a practising Muslim” and described him as a far-right activist in his youth like Italian premier Giorgia Meloni who, like her, has since espoused more traditionally conservative or rightwing positions.

ANSA noted that Buttafuoco writes for leftwing daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, a fierce Meloni critic, and another liberal daily that opposes the premier, La Repubblica, as well as for centrist daily Il Foglio and business daily Il Sole 24 Ore. He is the author of seven novels.

Former centre-left leader, Rome mayor and current cinema association ANICA President Francesco Rutelli told ANSA that Buttafuoco “is a never banal intellectual and he is sure to promote the richness and pluralism of what is one of the greatest cultural institutions in the world, and amongst the oldest”.

Buttafuoco’s CV also includes the role of president of the Teatro Stabile di Catania and of the Teatro Stabile d’Abruzzo. In 2003 he joined the board of directors of Istituto Luce. For Cinecittà he created the film I Picciotti del Profeta, a documentary on the presence of Islam in Sicily. He converted to Islam in 2015.

His appointment puts a question mark over the position of Venice Film Festival artistic director Alberto Barbera, whose current four-year contract comes up for renewal at the end of 2024, after the 81st edition of the festival.