Board sweeps away political obstacles

ROME Plans for a revamped Rome Film Festival, headed by former Venice topper Marco Mueller, got the greenlight on Thursday in a key board meeting that saw Mueller’s vision for the event prevail after a long struggle against political obstacles.

Rome’s upcoming edition will run Nov. 9-17, positioning it as a winter holiday launching pad for Hollywood pics, three months after Venice and Toronto and three months before Berlin.

“I’ve been talking to producers, world sales agents and distributors and they all say they need a new platform to avoid the bottleneck that forces them to launch too many films at the same top-tier festivals,” Mueller told Daily Variety.

Rome will also have a market running Nov. 14-17, a week after the AFM wraps in Santa Monica and roughly two weeks before the Ventana Sur mart in Buenos Aires.

“We envision that South American buyers will flock to Rome, in addition to European and Asian professionals,” said Mueller, adding that “we are trying to do a market that is complementary to AFM.”

As for the fest’s structure, the fundamental difference is that all the films will be world premieres. There will be competition and out-of-competition galas, a more cutting-edge section comprising docus — essentially an upgrade of Rome’s Extra section — and a small Italian competish. Rome’s Alice in the City kiddie section will continue, but managed autonomously.

As in the past, the fest will unspool at the Renzo Piano-designed Auditorium after plans to move it fell through. While the Auditorium’s main theater is booked during that period, its other facilities are available.

“We are very happy that we can count on the Auditorium, especially the Sala Sinopoli, which, with a few little tweaks, can become an ideal venue for film premieres,” said Mueller, noting that it is as big, in terms of seating capacity, as the Sala Grande in Venice.

Oscar-winning set designer Dante Ferretti has been contacted about creating set-pieces to jazz up the fest grounds and red carpet.

Mueller, who in December was acrimoniously ousted from his Venice post after an eight-year stint, played up the advantages of his new gig.

“I am now in a different position, in the sense that the chain of command and the bureaucracy are completely different. Unlike in Venice, this time I will have control of the technical details of the screenings, which will be impeccable,” he vowed.

Describing further distinctions between Rome and Venice, Mueller said: “It’s the big difference between being in the main hub of the Italian film industry, and being in a very beautiful open-air museum,” he said.

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