Politician: Rome Film Festival Has Lost Its Way

Marco Mueller
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

The candidate most likely to take over a region that is a primary backer says it has become too similar to the Venice festival and should return to its roots as a cinema "party."

ROME -- The International Rome Film Festival has strayed too far from its original concept and should make changes to differentiate itself from the Venice Film Festival, according to the candidate most likely to become governor of the region of Lazio, one of the main backers of the event.

Nicola Zingaretti, the favorite to lead the government of the region that includes the Italian capital, said in a magazine interview that the Rome festival was started in 2006 as a “popular event with the aim of promoting cinema.” He said the event’s original name, a cinema “fest” -- a play on words between the Italian terms for “party” and “festival” -- illustrated that it was “a popular cultural manifesto,” different from the storied Venice Film Festival, which will hold its 70th edition this year.

Along the way, the “fest” turned into a traditional “festival,” diminishing the difference between its mission and the one of the Venice festival, Zingaretti said.

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The similarities between the events evolved further when Marco Mueller, who served back-to-back terms as artistic director in Venice, resurfaced in Rome after his mandate in Venice was not renewed 13 months ago. The well-regarded Mueller’s arrival in Rome brought new attention and prestige to the eight-year-old event, but many of the changes he put into place in Rome mirrored the Venice festival.

“I have kept silent because I do not like controversy, but I think the festival has begun to betray the ideas that created it,” Zingaretti said in an interview with the magazine A.

“When [then RomaCinemaFest president] Goffredo Bettini took Leonardo DiCaprio to Tor Bella Monaca in 2006, it showed what made Rome particular compared to Venice,” Zingaretti said. Tor Bella Monaca is a rough neighborhood on Rome’s periphery, far from the city's famous historical center and the glitz of the festival's red carpet.

The latest edition of the Rome festival took a similar step with Sylvester Stallone, who came to the city in connection with the world premiere of his latest film, Walter Hill’s thriller Bullet to the Head. While in Rome, Stallone toured Tor Bella Monaca and nearby areas with Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno.

Additionally, Pezzi, a documentary from Luca Ferrari, set in Tor Bella Monaca, won the Rome festival’s Perspectives Award. 

Zingaretti’s views are important because, if he is elected governor of Lazio as polls predict, he will have a large say over the Rome festival’s budget and will have a vote on any major changes to the event. When Mueller was selected as Rome’s artistic director after a contentious battle against then-incumbent Piera Detassis, for example, it was in no small part due to strong support from Renata Polverini, Lazio’s governor at the time.

During the selection process, Zingaretti, then head of the province of Rome, another key festival stakeholder, was a strong backer of retaining Detassis and festival president Gian Luigi Rondi over Mueller and current president Paolo Ferrari

Rome festival officials said they had no comment on Zingaretti’s remarks. But last November, before the start of the 7th edition of Rome event, Mueller said he was not worried about the prospect that Polverini and Alemanno (another strong political ally) could be replaced by less supportive figures in national elections now set for next month.

“All I can do is do my job,” Mueller said at the time.