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Turin Film Festival Feels 'Cheated' by Rome Rival

Marco Mueller
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
Marco Mueller.

At issue: Marco Mueller's decision to move the date of the larger fest closer to the Piedmont event.

ROME – The Turin Film Festival said Thursday that it is dropping its calls for the rival International Rome Film Festival to change its dates back to their traditional perch in October and would go ahead with its plans to start the festival only six days after Rome closes.

In an open letter, the 30-year-old festival said it felt “cheated” by Rome’s decision to change its dates so close to Turin’s own, in a move that will surely reduce the amount of media attention for the older Piedmont festival.

"To say we feel cheated is an understatement, but how could we go to war with a budget of less than €2 million ($2.6 million) compared to one with around €12 million ($15.6 million),” the letter said. Rome's budget, announced earlier this week, is actually €11 million ($14.3 million).

The festivals have different focuses. While Rome will focus on world and national premieres, its market event, and the presence of high-profile stars, Turin is a discovery festival that seeks out up-and-coming talents and independent productions.

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The decision to push Rome’s dates into November was made at the insistence of newly confirmed Rome artistic director Marco Mueller, who saw many advantages to that spot on the calendar, including a wider reach for the Business Street market event halfway between the festivals in Toronto and Berlin, and the hopes of becoming a launching pad for late-year film releases.

When the date change was first announced, Turin offered to move its own dates to October starting next year. But when Mueller and Rome officials said they wanted to make the move immediately, Turin complained loudly. The festival enlisted the help of the city’s mayor, Piero Fassino, who appealed to Rome counterpart Gianni Alemanno to ask him to delay the date change until 2013. At first, Alemanno agreed, as did the Rome festival’s president, Paolo Ferrari, who upon his appointment in February, declared that Rome would not move its dates this year.

But Mueller insisted, and on Wednesday, the festival’s board agreed, and officially voted to change the dates to Nov. 9-17, around a week earlier than Mueller originally said he wanted. The Oct. 27-Nov. 4 dates still appeared on the festival’s web site as of late Thursday, and the city of Rome’s cultural calendar still listed the dates as Oct. 18-26.

The new dates allow just a six-day break before the Nov. 23-Dec. 1 Turin Festival and they almost perfectly overlap with the Nov. 10-17 documentary-focused Festival dei Popoli in Florence. Both festivals had finalized their dates for this year soon after the conclusion of their 2011 editions.

Upon the announcement Wednesday, Fassino is reported to have appealed to Minister of Culture Lorenzo Ornaghi to call on him to force Rome to move back to October. But a day later, Turin called off its efforts.

"We only say we will go ahead, convinced that Turin is a festival … that has, over time, retained a unique identity on the national scene, with its discoveries, its youth, its retrospectives, its eccentric authors, its national, European, international, and often even world premiers," the letter said. “If we continue to feel the warmth on the Internet, in newspapers, on our web site, and in our cinemas when the time is right we know the 2012 edition will be a wonderful festival."