Debate over Rome Film Festival Artistic Director Job Turning into Bureaucratic Boondoggle

Marco Mueller
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

The choice between Marco Mueller and Piera Detassis is likely to come Feb. 6.

ROME – The Music for Rome Foundation, the body that runs the facility that hosts the International Rome Film Festival and the holder of one of six votes on who will be named the festival’s artistic director, met Tuesday but declined to make any decisions, further delaying any hints over who will take oversee the artistic direction of the seven-year-old event.

In a statement, the foundation “expressed strong concern” over the uncertainty surrounding the festival, and it called on shareholders to “take clear and final decisions.” But it said it would withhold its own decision on the key issues related to the festival, including budgetary and administration issues in addition to the artistic director job.

It now appears the decision will be made Feb. 6, when the festival’s stakeholders are scheduled to meet.

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The debate over whether or not Marco Mueller will end up at the Rome festival’s helm has been a hot one ever since he was ousted as the director of the Venice Film Festival on Dec. 27, after eight years on the job. His name had appeared in speculation about the Rome festival months before he was removed from his job in Venice, but the major stakeholders in Rome have been split on whether to offer him the job or whether to stick with current artistic director Piera Detassis. Mueller himself has made no public statements regarding the speculation.

The notion of Mueller resurfacing in Rome has intrigued many observers because it would no doubt stoke the mostly dormant rivalry between Venice and Rome.

The Music for Rome Foundation is one of six voters that will have a say in the decision over Mueller. The others are the regional government of Lazio, the region that includes Rome; the government of the Province of Rome; the City of Rome; the Rome Chamber of Commerce, and Gian Luigi Rondi, the festival’s president. If there is a tie in the vote, the vote of Rondi -- the 90-year-old film critic who would likely be removed if Mueller were hired -- counts twice.

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So far, Lazio officials and Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno have said they wanted Mueller for the job, while the Chamber of Commerce and Rondi have said they prefer to keep Detassis.

On Monday, Alemanno attracted headlines when he said that the two “technical” representatives with a say in the decision -- the Rome Chamber of Commerce and the Music for Rome Foundation -- abstain from voting because they do not have a financial stake in the festival. The three government agencies, on the other hand, each provide a reported €1.5 million ($1.9 million) of the event’s budget.