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Celli bows at Venice

Ex-RAI topper set to top film fest amid rancor

ROME — Pierluigi Celli, former director general of Italian pubcaster RAI, looks set to become director of the Venice Intl. Film Festival.

Sources close to the Biennale, the arts institution that controls the Venice fest, report the org’s president, Franco Bernabe, has reached an agreement with Celli.

His appointment is expected to be ratified when the new Biennale board meets for the first time at the end of this week. Celli has confirmed both the offer from the Biennale and his willingness to accept it.

Recent talks had tagged Piera Detassis, a film journalist and editor of monthly film glossy Ciak, as frontrunner for the job. But according to unconfirmed reports, she is reluctant to accept.

Celli’s skills are managerial, so a role could still be tailored for Detassis as deputy director in charge of the selection committee.

But, said Detassis: “I don’t believe the role of festival director can be split in two. I imagine, though, that like every other year, there will be a qualified (programming) commission flanking the director, and if the conditions are right, I could be a part of it.”

New team has only five months to program and prepare the 59th fest, which runs Aug. 29-Sept. 8.

The delay in appointing a new chief could lead to a downsized version of the fest this year before a major over-haul and relaunch under the new management in 2003.

Earlier this week, the Italian producers union threatened to boycott Venice and withhold all Italian features if the Biennale failed to name a fest director before the end of this week.

The short time available to mount the event, the threat of political interference and ill-feeling over the removal of the previous management are believed to have been factors in the failure of negotiations with more experienced fest directors such as Marco Muller and Enrico Ghezzi.

Cultural clean sweep

Biennale prexy Paolo Baratta and fest director Alberto Barbera were ousted as part of a clean sweep of the country’s key cultural administrations after media mogul-turned-politico Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right government took office late last year.

Paradoxically, Celli was appointed to the influential position at RAI by the leader of that earlier government, former Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema. But despite his past ties with the left, Celli is believed to be held in high regard by Berlusconi. Since leaving RAI, he has been president of troubled new-generation telecommunications company IPSE. Insiders are speculating that Celli’s move to Venice could be merely a stepping-stone to a more central power position at the Biennale next year.

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