Rome Film Festival Drops Competition

Rome Festival Big Gamble - H 2014
Marco Cristofori/Corbis

Rome Festival Big Gamble - H 2014

The troubled fest rebrands itself once again

The Rome Film Festival's new strategy: a party without competition.

In a bid to revive the ailing Rome film fest, organizers have decided to stop battling with Venice and drop the main competition section from next year's event.

Organizers made the announcement after crisis meetings between the Cinema Foundation for Rome and the Italian Ministry of Culture, Dario Franceschini, together with the president of the Lazio Region, Nicola Zingaretti, and the mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino.

This year, the Ministry of Culture invested a substantial amount of money, about 20 percent of its $7 million budget, in the festival, which is meant to promote Rome as the film capital of Italy. But ticket sales fell drastically and visiting talent was on the decline, although industry numbers were solid. The ministry has pledged to continue its investment in 2015.

Read more Inside the Rome Film Festival's Big Gamble

The Cinema Foundation for Rome, the main organizer of the festival, announced that it is getting rid of the competition in order not to go head-to-head with Venice, which remains the most important Italian festival for world cinema. Instead, Rome wants to further develop its film market, and to serve as a celebratory showcase for new cinema.

Rome said it also hopes to be able to partner with Venice in the future, an about-face from the festival's previously antagonistic approach toward its northern neighbor. This may help to sway the Rome festival’s naysayers, who claim that with Italy’s staggering economy, there’s not room for two big festivals.

Read more Rome Film Festival: Wim Wenders on the Benefits of Slowing Down

This year, former festival director Marco Mueller announced an audience competition based on the model of Toronto. The idea was to use the Roman public as a testing ground to show distributors which kinds of films would do well in southern Europe and beyond.

It was a big gamble for the festival, but one not successful enough to continue. The electronic voting system wasn't easy for festivalgoers to navigate, and audience numbers were not coming out in a volume large enough to serve as a useful testing ground.

Mueller has announced that he won’t be returning to the festival, in order to focus on his academic career. The festival has not yet announced a new director.

The festival will also look for a consistent time frame for festival, which may be the second week of October.  

By keeping the concept of the festival as a party, organizers are hoping that "the simpler, the better" may just be the correct formula after all.

Twitter: @Aristonla