$3 Million in Funding for Rome Film Fest Might Be in Question Due to Political Turmoil

Rome Film Festival Red Carpet - H 2012
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Rome Film Festival Red Carpet - H 2012

The resignation of the Lazio Region's governor could cast in doubt more than 20 percent of the festival's budget, according to media reports.

ROME – Last week’s resignation of Lazio Regional Governor Renata Polverini could call into question Lazio’s significant financial backing of the International Rome Film Festival, Italian newspapers reported Friday.

Polverini, a one-time ally of Italian billionaire media tycoon and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, resigned Sept. 25 amid scandals within Berlusconi’s People of Liberty political party, as well as the Regional Council she headed that in part involved massive budget shortfalls. After she stepped down from the post, Polverini vowed to “expose” the wrongdoing she had witnessed.

Lazio is the Italian region that includes Rome.

During the contentious battle earlier this year about whether Marco Mueller, who was ousted after eight years as Venice Film Festival artistic director in December, should be named to head the Rome festival, or whether the festival should stick with then-incumbant Piera Detassis, Polverini was one of Mueller’s strongest supporters. At one point, she threatened to withdraw the region’s €2.3 million ($3 million) contribution to the festival’s budget if Mueller was not named to the post.

After a long and drawn-out process, Mueller was officially approved as artistic director in May. But the fate of Lazio’s contribution might still be in doubt in the wake of Polverini’s resignation, according to several Italian media reports.

Lazio’s contribution to the Rome festival is around 21 percent of the total reported budget of €11 million ($14.3 million).  If even part of that sum is pulled, it would be hard for the festival to replace in a weak economy.

The board of the Fondazione Cinema per Roma, the Rome festival’s parent organization, is expected to meet on Monday to discuss the issue, according to reports.

Rome officials had no official comment on the matter, but people close to the event said that much of Lazio’s contribution had already been paid to the festival, though it is not clear how much. A press officer at the Lazio Regional Government offices declined to comment specifically about the Rome festival when contacted, but did say that “a significant budget review” was being conducted.

The news comes just weeks before the seventh edition of the Rome festival is set to start, on Nov. 9, and just days before the festival is scheduled to announce its full lineup, scheduled for next Wednesday.

Mueller has promised a powerhouse lineup including 60 word premieres. Among the titles already announced are Walter Hill’s thriller Bullet to the Head, starring Sylvester Stallone, and Dreamworks’ animated 3D adventure film Rise of the Guardians