A strange Turin of events

Moretti quits top post after two days

Italy's Turin Film Festival began the new year with its future cast in doubt after Nanni Moretti, the event's highly touted new artistic director, quit just two days after accepting the job.

Moretti was hired Wednesday and stepped down Friday, citing an "atmosphere of tension" that arose from some festival organizers who opposed his hiring. He said the decision was made "with great pain."

There was speculation about friction almost from the start, when the director failed to ap- pear at the announcement of his hiring, instead issuing a short statement simply confirming that he had accepted the post.

The development is a blow to Turin, which had billed the appointment of the Palme d'Or-winning helmer as the boost it needed to — as Turin-based National Film Museum president Sandro Casazza said at the time — operate "on a level with Venice and Rome," a reference to the venerable Venice Film Festival and its new deep-pocketed rival RomaCinemaFest.

Instead, Turin organizers begin the new year scrambling for a replacement for Moretti, who has five Festival de Cannes Palme d'Or nominations to his credit, including a win for 2001's "La Stanza del Figlio" (The Son's Room).

"This could be tough to find another high-profile candidate because whoever is named will be known as the person who replaced Nanni Moretti," said Tullio Kezich, veteran critic of Italian daily Corriere della Sera. "The new director will also be entering what appears to be a difficult atmosphere among the organizers."

Turin organizers did not return phone calls seeking comment, but Moretti issued a statement saying that some organizers opposed the appointment of someone with limited film festival experience and strong political views. Moretti is a strong critic of the center-right coalition led by media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, who the helmer satirized in his 2006 hit "Il Caimano" (The Caiman).

"There has been talk of organizing two competing festivals in Turin, and someone suggested there may have been a lack of ethics in selecting me and that I would be an instrument for politicians to strangle the independence of the festival," Moretti's statement said. "It is with great pain that I leave the organizers to their method problems, procedural disputes and personal grudges."

The dates for this year's 25th annual Turin Film Festival have not been announced, but the event generally takes place in November. The festival traditionally has focused on first, second or third efforts from directors.