Though hiring a foreigner to run a national institution such as the Berlinale in Germany is rather rare, it’s been happening to other Italians lately.
Carlo Chatrian at Berlin is the most prominent case. But there are several more. In 2018, Italy’s Paolo Moretti, who now heads the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, became the first non-French national to be appointed general delegate to any of the Cannes sections. Moretti had previously worked all over Europe and was already based in France. But his most formative job was probably programming Venice’s Horizons section for four years, learning the ropes from the Lido’s then-chief Marco Mueller, who now runs China’s much smaller but prestigious Pingyao Intl. Film Festival.
Another Italian, Eva Sangiorgi, was hired in 2018 as the head of the Viennale, Austria’s top film fest. She was the first non-Austrian, and also the first woman, to land that job. Sangiorgi managed that feat after founding Mexico City’s FICUNAM Intl. Film Festival, where she was in charge of both artistic and management sides. There is also Giulio Casadei, who heads the respected Brive Film Festival in France, which spotlights European medium-length features; and Nico Marzano, who curates the film program and runs the film distribution arm at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.
They didn’t reach these prominent positions thanks to “something that’s intrinsically Italian,” says Italian critic Giona Nazzaro, chief of the Venice Critics’ Week (he also works with Switzerland’s Visions du Réel fest). Their success, according to Nazzaro, comes from their different skill sets.
“It’s not just about being cinephiles; it’s about knowing how to navigate the ins and outs of the industry,” he says.
But the bigger question is: With more people from Italy calling the shots, is cinema Italiano getting a boost?
The short answer: It can’t hurt. There are nine Italian films at Berlin this year, with three in competition: “Favolacce” (Bad Tales), from Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo; “Volevo nascondermi” (Hidden Away), from Giorgio Diritti; and the Italy/Germany/Mexico co-production “Siberia” from Abel Ferrara.