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Interview: Rome Film Festival Director Marco Mueller Discusses His First Year and the Future of Italian Cinema

By Celluloid Liberation Front | Indiewire November 20, 2012 at 1:11PM

Rome Film Festival director Marco Mueller is a divisive figure in the film community, but nobody can deny his impact. He is renowned for his track record of injecting new life into festival, from his successful Rotterdam debut after the death of its intransigent founder Hubert Balls through to his acclaimed tenure in Venice. He is also one of the first curators to introduce European audiences to Asian films, in particular Chinese cinema. His very presence at the helm of this year's edition of the Rome Film Festival provoked a 50% increase in international accreditations.
The red carpet at the Rome Film Festival.
The Hollywood Reporter The red carpet at the Rome Film Festival.

Where is this festival heading? Do you think it can bypass the formula for a big city festival for a more adventurous characterization?

Our hope is to reconcile these two sides that at first seemed incompatible. Namely, what in Rome used to be called "the party," the mundane aspect of the festival with the red carpet and all that, and what we started this year with the CINEMAXXI sidebar competition. The auditorium and its two main screening facilities are a great space that lend itself to big galas and was in fact appreciated by those delegations who saw it for the first time. We could work on the red carpet, and embellish it a little bit, but I think that in terms of infrastructure we can rely on a remarkable place. [The auditorium was built by Centre
Pompidou architect Renzo Piano]. The MAXXI is the most important center for contemporary art we have in Italy, so we will definitely improve the experimental
sidebar taking place there and also work on something that can function throughout the year.

The gradual disappearance of small repertory cinemas has been accompanied by a mushrooming of film festivals beyond Italy. How do you interpret this phenomenon and what are the repercussions for the film industry?

As I was saying before, if a festival does not fruitfully relate to the wider world of cinema, it is a model that will not sustain itself on the long run. It cannot work unless a sort of film festivals confederation is formed so that festivals become an autonomous and independent reality, but this is something that should be coordinated and harmonized. The proliferations of many festivals in Italy is a symptom itself of all that that is not working. The pressing issue is not that of multiplying the number of festivals but that of having permanent sites for the consumption of cinema. In all the major cultural poles in Italy we should have a cinema of reference where the discourse a festival can initiate is then continued and capitalized upon. Rather than a multitude of festivals we could have a permanent and polycentric festival. There are at least ten Italian cities where it
could be done.

How would you describe Italian cinema to people unfamiliar with any contemporary filmmakers beyond Matteo Garrone and Paolo Sorrentino?

I would describe it with our selection and the verdict of the international juries here at the festival. None was expecting, not even us, that the juries would favor Italian films that are so different from each other and most importantly are different from what was successful in the past. "Ali Blue-Eyes," for instance, which was awarded by two juries, represents a precise direction veering away from "neo-neo-realism" with a more piercing approach to reality. On the surreal side is the cinema of Pappi Corsicato, which gathered the curiosity of many here at the festival. It is paradoxical indeed that such an original filmmaker like Corsicato is not well-known abroad. And then of course there is the identification of Paolo Franchi on the international competition jury's part as a director to look out for. The fact that his film ["E La Chiamano Estate"] was awarded not one but two prizes is, I believe, a clear message that the jury wanted to send out. We are talking about juries with international members, which pay testament to the fact that Italian cinema is not just a parochial affair doomed to the national market.

Diplomacy or artistic flair? What is more important for the artistic director of a film festival?

It is very important to be able to recognize original talents and then, of course, you need diplomacy in order to secure deals with producers, even because we're talking about a festival with 60 world premieres. So you have to persuade them to choose Rome with all its peculiarities and also with some of its imperfections.

This article is related to: Rome Film Festival, Marco Mueller

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