Turin Film Fest Ticket Sales Up Despite Ken Loach Drama

Gabriele Salvatores - P 2012
Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images

Gabriele Salvatores - P 2012

Bucking national downward trend, sales up 12 percent; City requests documents in case of outsourced workers that drew director's ire.

ROME – The City of Turin appears to be weighing a lawsuit against film director Ken Loach, who declined his lifetime achievement honor from the Turin Film Festival in protest over alleged labor practices at National Film Museum, the festival’s parent organization. But the festival appears to be doing just fine without Loach, reporting a rise in ticket sales compared to last year.

Meanwhile, the Turin daily La Stampa reported that Oscar-winning Italian director Gabriele Salvatores will soon be announced as the new artistic director of the 30-year-old Turin festival, replacing fellow auteur Gianni Amelio, now in the last year of his mandate.

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The lawsuit against Loach, reported in the Italian media, would ostensibly be to recoup damages caused when the 76-year-old British director announced only two days before the start of the festival he would not attend or accept his Gran Premio Torino lifetime achievement honor. A screening of Loach’s Cannes Jury Prize winning The Angels’ Share was also cancelled.

Loach issued a statement upon announcing his decision that included positive language about the festival itself, but saying he was convinced to refuse the festival’s honor in “solidarity” with museum workers who claimed their wages were cut and some were fired after cleaning and security services were outsourced.

“How could I not respond to a request for solidarity from workers who were fired for fighting for their rights?” Loach asked in his statement released Nov. 21.

He has not spoken about the issue publically since then. For its part, the museum said Loach had been “badly informed,” claiming no laws were broken, and that nobody was fired or treated improperly.

Loach’s decision prompted public verbal attacks from Amelio, Venice Film Festival artistic director and National Film Museum Director Alberto Barbera, and from Turin mayor Piero Fassino.

STORY: Ken Loach Refuses Turin Film Fest Honor Over Alleged Worker Abuses

It’s the city that appears to be preparing the lawsuit, according to reports in the local media, including requisitioning documents from Mauro Landis, the head of the cooperative that employs the workers in question. Reports are that Landis had been considering his own lawsuit against Loach.

Even without Loach, the event seems to be more than holding its own. The festival, which got underway Friday, reported Monday that ticket sales were 12.6 percent higher over the first three days of the event than over the same period in 2011. That bucks a national trend in which ticket sales so far this year are down by more than a tenth compared to 2011, putting the sector on pace to contract for the second consecutive year.

The national lull was a factor in the International Rome Film Festival, which concluded just six days before Turin got underway, reporting a 15 percent drop in ticket sales compared to its previous edition.

Turin also reported a 10 percent increase in the number of press credentials issued, a line with the earlier Rome and Venice festivals, both of which reported an uptick in media interest in the events.

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Speculation that Salvatores -- the director behind Mediterraneo, which won the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1991 -- would replace Amelio have been swirling for months, but according to La Stampa, an official announcement is now imminent. The report was based on information from local stakeholders in the festival, adding that Steve della Casa, head of the RomaFictionFest, the respected television fiction event in the Italian capital, and of the Turin-Piedmont Film Commission, would come on board as Salvatores’ top lieutenant. After being contacted about the possible job, della Casa said speculation was “premature” with the festival taking place but that he would take the job if asked.

The 30-year-old Turin festival concludes Saturday.