The Venice Film Festival has denied reports that artistic director Alberto Barbera has already resigned from his position.

Rumours about Barbera's resignation and replacement began to emerge at the end of last week, when the Venice Biennale's board of directors stepped down three months before their contract officially expired.

Their move followed the ousting of Biennale president Paolo Baratta, who was replaced by new government-appointee Franco Bernabe, a former head of Telecom Italia.

Venice spokeswoman Michaela Lazzarin denied that Barbera had resigned. Rather, she said, a new board of directors will now be formally appointed within the next 45 days - and they will either confirm Barbera's position or appoint a new artistic director.

Given the current mood of uncertainty at the Biennale, however, it seems inevitable that Barbera will either step down or be replaced within the next few weeks. According to an industry source, the main frontrunner for the position appears to be Marina Cicogna, a film producer who is believed to carry Culture Minister Giuliano Urbani's personal endorsement and is related to Count Volpi, who founded the Venice Film Festival in 1932.

Other names being bandied around include Italian film directors Pupi Avati and Lina Wertmuller, former Locarno chief Marco Muller, current Locarno director Irene Bignardi, and polemical former Venice director Felice Laudadio.

While both Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola are also believed to have been approached for the position, sources believe it is unlikely that the position would ultimately be handed out to a non-Italian.