Key Stakeholder Meeting Could Decide Fate of Rome Festival

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The beleaguered event's budget and other problems are expected to be addressed in an important Wednesday meeting.

ROME -- The future of the eight-year-old International Rome Film Festival -- whose fate has been clouded by budget problems, industry infighting and political issues -- could be decided at Wednesday’s stakeholders meeting.

In February, Paolo Ferrari, the former Warner Bros-Italia head who is now president of the Rome festival, said the event closed 2012 in the black. But Italian newspapers reported since then that he was counting on some funds that have not arrived, including a €700,000 ($910,000) contribution from the city of Rome that appears on the festival’s books but does not show as being paid by the city.

The budget for the 2013 edition could be in even bigger trouble, if local media reports are accurate. Some have reported the festival could end up with as much as €7 million ($9.1 million) less than it expects. That compares to a reported budget last year of €12 million ($15.6 million) and €10 million ($13 million) in 2011.

Some of the problems stem from the contentious battle last year to install Ferrari and former Venice artistic director Marco Mueller at the festival, replacing Gian Luigi Rondi and Piera Detassis, respectively. Some are related to Italy’s economic woes that hurt ticket sales and made finding sponsors more challenging. And some internal issues date back to the festival’s founding in 2006.

But the biggest problems appear to be beyond the festival’s control: vocal festival critic Nicola Zingaretti was elected as the head of the regional government of Lazio, a major festival stakeholder that could withhold some or all of its economic support for the event unless its reformed to his taste (he says he’d like to see an event more oriented to the mass public).

Meanwhile, the provincial government, another key stakeholder, is in the process of being phased out, with its budgets and obligations likely to be split between the regional and municipal governments, putting its economic support in doubt as well.

Festival officials have said they are confident all issues will be resolved and that the high-visibility festival will take place Nov. 8-17 as planned. 

“The Wednesday meeting will go a long way to determining how viable the festival will be this year,” said Paolo Fallai, a journalist who covers the Rome festival closely for Corriere della Sera, Italy’s largest newspaper. Fallai and other festival watchers say the festival could be forced to scale back dramatically, or it could receive assurances from stakeholders that current levels of support will continue -- or something in between.

“The key will be finding a balance between the vision Ferrari and Mueller have for the event and the resources available,” said an industry figure close to the festival, who asked not to be named.

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