Magazine article Variety

Rome Film Fest's Eternal RENEWAL

Magazine article Variety

Rome Film Fest's Eternal RENEWAL

Article excerpt

hen Marco Mueller took over as Rome Film Festival director prior to the event's 2012 edition, he brought with him more than three decades of experience amassed at Venice, Locarno and Rotterdam. But nothing prepared him for the ensuing Roman roller-coaster ride, full of twists and turns dictated by Italian politics and the economy, an experience he compares with being on a mission out of "The Expendables" franchise.

"Being so closely connected to the various centers of power in Italy, I had to learn how to comply even with requests that were not clearly formulated," Mueller says.

After two years of changing formulas, political battles and budget cuts, this year's festival, which runs Oct. 16-25, reflects Mueller's invention of the "new metropolitan fest" concept, a plan that comes in response to the culture ministry's dictum to go the full route of being a "festa" (Italian for "party"), in order to differentiate Rome from Venice as well as Türin, Italy's small but respected ultra-indie event.

The budget of $7.6 million - down from around $14 million in 2013 - is a far cry from his first Rome edition in 2012, for which Mueller scrambled to secure nearly 60 world preems in four months, including Walter Hill's Sylvester Stallone-starrer "Bullet to the Head," inject ing an element of novelty to the fest, and prompting a rise in international accreditations. But inevitably, he also scraped the bottom of the barrel with some titles, such as Roman Coppola's unanimously panned Charlie Sheen-starrer "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III."

Though he says he battled conflicting signals in that initial fest, Mueller maintains he was following his mandate at the time. By 2013, however, he says he got "hints" from the Italo powers "that we needed to steer away from being a (bona fide film) festival, and go more in the direction of being a festa."

In other words, political leaders wanted a populist celebration of cinema more along the lines established by Rome's former mayor Walter Veltroni, the film-buff pol who officiated at George Clooney's wedding in Venice and had launched the Eternal City fest in 2006, with plenty of fanfare and a generous $15 million budget. …

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