Venice Film Festival Names Alberto Barbera New Chief

Alberto Barbera Cannes 2010 - P 2011
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Alberto Barbera Cannes 2010 - P 2011

UPDATED: Turmoil ends with appointment of new artistic director, concluding Marco Mueller's eight-year tenure.

ROME – Alberto Barbera, the head of the Italian film archives and a former artistic director of the Venice Film Festival will return to his old job at Venice’s helm, replacing long-time artistic director Marco Mueller, festival organizers said Tuesday.

Barbera’s appointment ends weeks of speculation about the fate of the world’s oldest film festival, and it comes just four days before Mueller’s mandate was set to expire. It is not clear the extent to which the festival’s late start in naming a new artistic director will hinder its efforts to produce another a powerhouse lineup for the 69th edition of the event, which will run Aug. 29 - Sept. 8.

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The decision not to reappoint the well regarded Mueller to the post was the result of an apparent power struggle between Mueller and Paolo Baratta, the newly-re-appointed president of the Venice Biennale, the foundation that oversees the festival and other cultural events in Venice. Mueller and Baratta are thought to have clashed repeatedly during the past four years.

Baratta was recently re-upped as Biennale president after a four-year term, while Mueller served back-to-back four-year mandates as artistic director.

It is not clear what Mueller will do next, though his name has been attached in the Italian press to the six-year-old Rome International Film Festival and another event in St. Petersburg, Russia.

If Mueller resurfaces in Rome as the Italian press speculates, it could re-stoke the rivalry between the two events, which calmed in recent years after reaching a fever pitch during the first three years of the Rome festival’s existence.

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Barbera already served a stint as Venice’s artistic director, from 1999 to 2002. But he is best known as the head of the National film Museum, in Turin.

Barbera will inherit a festival will high visibility but growing logistical problems. The much-heralded project to build a new Palazzo del Cinema was scrapped because of health concerns, and replaced with a less ambitious alternative that it unlikely to yield new operating space until 2013 or 2014.

Two years ago, the Hotel Des Bains, one of two five-star hotels on the Venice Lido, closed and is in the process of being transformed into condos. And the Hotel Excelsior, the island’s other five-star property, is expected to close for renovations for at least a year starting in 2013.