Marco Mueller Officially Appointed Rome Film Festival Artistic Director

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ROME – After tumultuous weeks of negotiations and infighting, Marco Mueller has finally been appointed artistic director of the International Rome Film Festival, following a vote Friday of the festival’s stakeholders, a move designed to raise Rome’s profile while no doubt rekindling the festival’s rivalry with the storied Venice Film Festival.

Though long expected, the official announcement of Mueller’s appointment finally closed the door on one of the most problematic periods in the seven-year history of a festival that has had more than its share of difficulties.

STORY: Marco Mueller Appointment as Rome Film Festival Chief Delayed

In this case, the succession battle featured a weeks-long standoff between Mueller -- who had been artistic director with the Venice Film Festival for the previous eight years -- and newly-installed festival president Paolo Ferrari on one side, and incumbent artistic director Piera Detassis and then-president Gian Luigi Rondi on the other. The way was cleared only after Rondi stepped down Feb. 24, for what he said was for “the good of the festival.”

Mueller, who leave Saturday to attend Filmart, told The Hollywood Reporter he would immediately begin consultations with Ferrari and the festival’s board over an array of key issues, such as the dates for this year’s event and the possibility of an Italian film-only sidebar in Rome.

The issue of the festival’s dates has been a difficult one. Mueller has said he wants to push the festival’s dates back to late November from their current spot on the calendar, tentatively scheduled this year Oct. 18-26. A switch to November would cause problems for the 30th edition of the Turin Film Festival, scheduled for Nov. 25-Dec. 3, and officials there appealed to Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno to delay the change in Rome’s dates until 2013. Alemanno agreed, but Mueller said Friday the issue must still be discussed.

“I have talked to filmmakers and buyers and distributors and they say they want an event in fourth quarter and I will explain to the board that we should try to fill that demand,” Mueller said.

Mueller also said he wants to gauge interest in establishing a sidebar in Rome exclusively for Italian films to fill the gap created when Mueller’s replacement in Venice, Alberto Barbera, announced he would eliminate the Contracampo Italiano sidebar Mueller created there.

“If there is enough interest then, yes, we’ll do it,” Mueller said. “We would love for Rome to become like an European version of the Sundance Film Festival, but with some focus on Italian films.”

STORY: Paolo Ferrari Named President of the International Rome Film Festival

Mueller said that the issue in the Italian press that erupted this week regarding his reported salary demands was “completely untrue.” Italian newspapers reported that Mueller asked for a salary of €1.5 million ($1.93 million) over three years, sparking a new controversy among stakeholders still smarting from the festival’s messy succession battle. Ferrari, who was appointed March 5, and other festival officials strongly denied those reports at the time, and on Friday Mueller scoffed at the reports.

“Let’s just say that what I will earn will be much, much less than that what was reported and that it will be no higher than what I was paid in Venice,” he said, though he refused to be more specific.

Mueller also said that he would like to develop some kind of summer presence for the Rome festival, though it would take place under the umbrella of the Fondazione Cinema per Roma, the festival’s parent organization. Such a move would allow the festival to screen films outdoors, a summer tradition in Rome. It would also no doubt stoke what is likely to become a more heated rivalry with Venice, as Rome would feature events both before and after Venice’s dates, which usually take place around the first two weeks of September.

Even without summer screenings, relations between Rome and Venice, the world’s oldest film festival, are likely to become bumpier going forward. With Detassis in Rome and Mueller in Venice, the two festivals had a kind of uneasy truce. But Barbera has already said it would be “difficult” to collaborate with Rome if Mueller was appointed artistic director, and Mueller seems poised to try to pay Venice back for his unceremonial ouster in December.

The two festivals are likely to also clash regarding their plans for a market event. Barbera was appointed in Venice in part to help build what he called a “Cannes-style” market event on the Venice Lido, while Mueller says he envisions a “major Eurasian-focused” market emerging in Rome.

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