More Controversy Hits Turin Film Fest

Alberto Barbera Cannes 2010 - P 2011
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Alberto Barbera Cannes 2010 - P 2011

Piedmont's Steve della Casa criticizes Alberto Barbera for keeping ties to both the Turin and Venice festivals.

ROME – The Turin Film Festival became mired in a new round of controversy over the weekend after Steve della Casa, the respected head of Turin-Piedmont Film Commission, criticized the role of Alberto Barbera, who is both the artistic director of the Venice Film Festival and the director of the National Film Museum, the parent organization of the Turin fest.

The 30th edition of the Turn festival already had its share of controversy, after director Ken Loach declined the festival’s lifetime achievement prize in protest of alleged worker abuses at the National Film Museum, and after Oscar-winning director Gabriele Salvatores, seen as the odds-on-favorite to succeed Gianni Amelio as Turin artistic director, said he was too busy to take the job.

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The latest controversy strikes at the festival’s leadership. Barbera has directed the National Film Museum since 2004, and he was selected as the replacement for Marco Mueller as Venice artistic director a year ago. At first it was reported that he would step down from the National Film Museum to take the job in Venice, but, in the end, he elected to keep both jobs.

For his part, della Casa, a critic and director of the RomaFictionFest that focuses on television fiction, said Barbera’s two jobs represented an “incorrect” situation. He called for a change, and said the situation may have been a factor in Salvatores’ decision not to take the Turin job.

Ugo Nespolo, the president of the National Film Museum, issued a long and rambling statement Sunday calling della Casa’s view on Barbera’s dual jobs “ridiculous.”

With the controversy swirling around Turin, it became the third major Italian film festival engulfed in controversy this year. Venice was criticized after the main jury was not allowed to award the Golden Lion for Best Film to Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master because they had already given the film too many awards. The prize when to Ki-duk Kim's Pieta instead. Meanwhile, in Rome, Mueller, the former Venice head, drew fire for the festival's relative lack of star power, its slumping ticket sales and budget shortfall.

Finding a new artistic director for the 2013 festival remains a high priority in Turin. After Salvatores, whose film Mediterraneo won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film in 1992, removed himself from consideration, some Italian media reported that French writer, director, producer and event curator Ronald Chammah was the leading candidate for the job.