Italian Culture Czar Blasts Rome Film Festival for Acting 'Obstinately'

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Minister Ornaghi says Rome acted against the best interests of Italian cinema by pushing its dates into November.

ROME – Italian Minister of Culture Lorenzo Ornaghi blasted the International Rome Film Festival Monday, saying it has acted “obstinately” and with regard only for “its own interests” in the way it pushed its dates into November despite protests from other festivals that will suffer from the move.

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Under the newly-installed leadership of former Warner Bros-Italia head Paolo Ferrari, the Rome festival’s president, and artistic director Marco Mueller, who came to Rome after an eight-year stint in Venice, the seven-year-old Rome festival has pushed for significant changes compared to previous years. The most significant change, which Mueller insisted upon, was switching the festival’s dates from mid-October into November, in order to serve as a mid-way point between the big festivals in Toronto in September and Berlin in February, and in order to serve as a launching pad for some late-year cinema releases.

Rome’s board officially approved the plan to hold this year’s festival Nov. 9-17. That puts the festival’s close precariously close to the Nov. 23 start of the 30-year-old Turin Film Festival, and it means Rome’s dates will completely overlap with the 53-year-old documentary-focused Festival dei Popoli in Florence, scheduled to take place Nov. 10-17. Because of its proximity to those festivals, Rome is expected to siphon away media attention and sponsor interest.

Ornaghi, speaking from the Turin Book Fair, near the site of one of the offended festivals, criticized Rome for acting “against the overall interests of Italian cinema.” He said there was no chance of mediating a compromise and that officials insisted that the change of dates be approved or that the festival would close down.

But despite his criticisms, Ornaghi did not call for Rome to push its dates back to October. Ornaghi does not have the power to force a film festival to change its dates, but he could choose to assert pressure by threatening to withhold government support for the festival or host city.

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Last week, officials from the Turin festival along with the city’s mayor, Piero Fassino, said they would lobby Ornaghi to force Rome to occupy its traditional space on the country’s festival calendar. But on Thursday they demurred, publishing an open letter to say they felt “cheated” but that they would do their best to thrive despite the short six-day respite between the two festivals.

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