Former Venice chief runs into political crossfire

Former Venice Film Festival topper Marco Mueller is being backed by Italy’s motion picture association Anica to head the Rome Film Festival in a significant move that aims to break a protracted political deadlock over his appointment.

Mueller has been in the running for the Rome post since December when his Lido contract was not renewed due to a power clash with Venice Biennale prexy Paolo Baratta.

Mueller, who had a strong eight-year run as the Lido leader, is considered by many in the Italo industry the best candidate to redefine the 6-year-old Eternal City Extravaganza and turn it into an industry asset complementary to — rather than in competition with — Venice.

But Mueller has run into complicated political crossfire and firm opposition from current Rome prexy Gian Luigi Rondi, whose contract expires in June. Rondi, a 91-year-old film critic and eminence grise, wants Piera Detassis, whose mandate as Rome’s artistic director expired in January, to remain on board. The impasse has been going on for weeks.

In a statement Anica said it was “worried” about the Rome fest’s “extreme precariousness,” which at this point undermines its existence.

“The only fair solution left, even though it is being reached in the worse possible way, is for Marco Mueller to be appointed artistic director,” Anica said.

The country’s main film industry urged the fest’s board members to show “sense of responsibility” in supporting Mueller and vowed to guarantee his political “autonomy.”

It is not clear when a decision might be reached. Mueller, meanwhile, is at the Berlin Film Festival.

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