Calendar dominates talk at Turin


TURIN, Italy -- Speculation about the Turin Film Festival's place on Italy's crowded festival calendar and first-year artistic director Nanni Moretti's plans for a second term are swirling as this year's event hits the home stretch.

In recent weeks, Moretti has called new attention to the timing of Turin, which takes place less than a month after the close of the 2-year-old RomaCinemaFest, which, in turn, starts just five weeks after the conclusion of the venerable Venice Film Festival.

Asked about a possible change in dates, Minister of Culture Francesco Rutelli said only that "Italy has three great film festivals," without discussing their proximity.

Moretti, when asked the same question, only reiterated his opposition to the Rome event taking place halfway between Venice and Turin.

But speculation persists that one of the festivals might have to change its dates next year and that it could be Turin, though there is no indication of a possible alternative date.

Meanwhile, Moretti's future with the festival job that he accepted, quit and then re-accepted in the space of a week in January remains uncertain.

Festival officials have no official comment on the subject, but it is clear that the prickly Moretti -- best known as an award-winning director, actor and writer -- has been an odd fit for the public relations aspect of the artistic director role.

Limited language skills -- Moretti speaks no foreign language fluently -- and a home base in Rome, nearly 500 miles south of Turin, are potential issues for an international festival designed to promote the city as much as to call attention to up-and-coming talents, observers said.

But there is no doubt that the prestige of having an internationally respected personality like Moretti associated with Turin has helped the festival in its battle for visibility against Venice and Rome.

"Both the festival and the artistic director are going to have to think about some serious issues after the festival closes," one well-connected industry source said.

Organizers of the festival, which closes Friday, took the opportunity Wednesday to pay homage to Gino Agostini, the Italian producer who died Tuesday in Bologna at age 87.

Agostini produced films for Moretti as well as with fellow directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani.

It also is so far so good on the ticket sales front for Italy's "discovery" festival as the town continued to host a scrum of filmgoers, with scores turned away from sold-out cinemas.

The festival has not released official ticket sales figures since the end of the third day -- when sales were tabbed at more than 50% higher than in 2006 -- but indications are that the brisk sales have continued.

The fact that almost every film on the Turin program has been seen elsewhere before screening here has seemed to have no effect on the strong interest level. Most of the competition lineup has screened at other festivals, and the rest of the program is heavy with retrospectives and a few Italian premieres.

"To someone who loves movies in Italy, why does it matter if a film screened once or twice in Cannes or Toronto?" one festival official asked. "It will still be the first time it is seen in Turin."

Industry players said they were disappointed that there were not more new films to see in Turin but added that the quality of the films is high.