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Director Paolo Virzi Named as New Head of Turin Film Fest

Paolo Virzi Headshot - P 2012

Virzi, the third consecutive film director to head the event, will take over a festival with a cloud of controversy over it.

ROME – Award-winning Italian director Paolo Virzi will be the next artistic director of the Turin Film Festival, festival administrators announced Friday, ending a period of uncertainty and controversy swirling around the 30-year-old event.

Virzi, 48, has directed a series of popular and well regarded comedies in Italy, including My Name is Tanino from 2002, Tutta la vita davanti (Her Whole Life Ahead) from 2008, and 2010’s La prima cosa bella (The First Beautiful Thing). But he is still little known beyond Italy’s borders.

STORY: Italian Director Criticizes Ken Loach's Decision to Skip Turin Festival

His resume includes 11 nominations (and two wins) from Italy’s David di Donatello awards, and a special jury prize in Venice from 1997 for the comedy Ovosodo (Hardboiled Egg). He will be honored at the upcoming Capri, Hollywood Film Festival with a “Master of Comedy” lifetime achievement prize.

Virzi will succeed director Gianni Amelio at Turin’s helm, and will be the third consecutive film director to serve as artistic director in Turin. Before Amelio’s four-year mandate, Roman auteur Nanni Moretti ran the event for two years.

For months, Oscar-winning director Gabriele Salvatores, the director behind 1992 Best Foreign Language Oscar winner Mediterraneo, was reported to be next in line for the Turin job. But he removed his name from consideration earlier this month, leaving organizers scrambling to fill the post. French director, writer, and event curator Ronald Chammah was briefly reported to be a candidate for the post earlier in the week, before Virzi was selected.

STORY: More Controversy Hits Turin Film Fest

Virzi will take over one of Italy’s most highly regarded film events and the only major Italian film festival to see ticket sales rise this year compared to 2011. But it also an event still reeling from controversy surrounding the decision of U.K. director Ken Loach to turn down the festival’s lifetime achievement prize at the last edition in protest to reported worker abuses at Turin’s National Film Museum, the film festival’s parent organization. Museum organizers said Loach was "misinformed," and the city government is reportedly mulling a law suit against Loach to recoup damages. 

More recently, Alberto Barbera -- who is both the National Film Museum’s director and the artistic director for the storied Venice Film Festival -- was criticized for holding both positions at once. There was speculation in the media that Barbera’s dual role may have been one of the reasons behind Salvatores’ decision not to take the job as had been expected.

Virzi is the latest in a new crop of artistic directors at the largest Italian-language film festivals: Barbera (in Venice), Marco Mueller (in Rome), and Mario Sesti (in Taormina) all directed their first edition of their respective festivals this year. Italian Carlo Chatrian was in September named as the new artistic director of the Locarno Film Festival in Ticino, the Italian-speaking Swiss canton. Like Virzi, Chatrian will head his festival for the first time in 2013.