Rome Film Fest Chief Denies Cash Woes, Says Work on 2013 Event Under Way

Paolo Ferrari Headshot - P 2012

Paolo Ferrari Headshot - P 2012

The fate of the eight-year-old event has been cast in doubt in the local media leading up to a key May 15 stakeholder meeting.

ROME – Reports of the death of the International Rome Film Festival have been greatly exaggerated, according to Paolo Ferrari, the president of the festival’s parent organization.

Speculation that the eight-year-old event could be on its last legs have swirled in the Italian press in recent days, due to sponsor issues, unclear support from government entities that had been backers in the past, and a lukewarm local reception to the 2012 edition of the event, the first under Ferrari and Marco Mueller, who came to Rome after a successful eight-year stint at the venerable Venice Film Festival.

In recent days, Lidia Ravera, the new cultural attaché for the regional Lazio government, a key festival backer, said the festival could close before the next edition, saying it “absorbs” the region’s cultural budget leaving nothing for smaller entities. Other media stories predicted the demise of the event for failing to capture the people’s imaginations: Corriere della Sera, Italy’s largest paper, called the event “a festival without a public.”

Riccardo Tozzi, a film producer and the head of ANICA, the national audiovisual association, a key festival backer, had tried to play the role of a peacemaker, calling for an end to hyperbolic language about the festival and said that the different sides “not to blame each other but to work to solve problems together.”

In a statement Wednesday, Ferrari, the former head of Warner Bros.-Italia, brushed aside the criticisms, saying the festival staff was already working hard on this year’s event, which is scheduled to take place Nov. 8-17. Ferrari detailed a series of logistical and support agreements already in place for the 2013 event, and promised that Mueller was at work producing a lineup of “important motion pictures.” He denied budget problems, reiterating earlier statements that the festival finished without debts last year.

“We finished in the black last year and are working hard for 2013,” Ferrari said in the statement.

But Franco Montini, a journalist who covers the Rome festival for La Repubblica, said that while Ferrari’s statements may be accurate, they do not necessarily mean the festival is on sound footing.

“Saying they are working hard, it’s like asking the waiter in a restaurant if the wine’s good: he has to say it is, just like Ferrari has to say they’re working on this year’s festival,” Montini said. “But what remains is that they don’t have enough money from sponsors and that they really need government entities to step in.”

The festival got some conditional good news Tuesday, when Nicola Zingaretti, the new Lazio president who in his previous position as the head of the provincial government aggressively tried to block the arrival of Ferrari and Mueller, issued a statement of at least limited support for the festival, saying the regional government would “confirm its level of support in the proposed budget.” But the statement appeared to rule out the possibility that its support level could be increased.

The festival’s fate could become much clearer next week, at a key stakeholder meeting scheduled for May 15. The meeting had originally been scheduled to take place in March but was postponed. 

Twitter: @EricJLyman