My 2 Cents: Who Killed MIFED?

By Dom Serafini

A crime has been perpetrated against the international audiovisual industry, but so far no one has been convicted or even indicted. So, the question remains: "Who killed MIFED?"

From the clues left all over the Milan Fair grounds, one could suspect that, perhaps, the most likely culprit is MIFED's last boss, Carlo Bassi; but what would be his motive? Indeed, a simple background check shows that Bassi has a strong alibi: he wasn't at an effective command post after all. Those who steered MIFED toward its killer(s) were other people hiding behind Bassi, maneuvering to assassinate the 45-year-old institution. But who could it be? In order to gather enough clues to complete the big puzzle, lets analyze every aspect of this drama without ignoring any detail, including its history.

MIFED was born in 1960, the brainchild of Michele Guido Franci -- a "visionary" leader who, in effect, created the world's first audiovisual market. In this area, Italy had been on the forefront, just as it is now in the background. First came the world's first film festival: Venice in 1932; then the world's first TV festival: Prix Italia, in 1948; finally came MIFED -- whose acronym is itself a mystery -- which became an instant success.

Soon after MIFED was killed, another Milan Fair market was found dead: IBTS, the TV trade show for hardware.

Here the plot thickens, becoming more confusing, intriguing and complicated. In effect, in a short period, both Milan Fair's hardware and software TV trade shows were dead.

Let's now follow the paper trail. In 2001, Milan Fair handed MIFED over to Rassegne SpA, an organization -- set up in 1997 between Fiera Milano and Cosmit SpA -- which specialized in trade shows for the furniture industry. In 2004, MIFED became part of the Audiovisual Industry Promotion (AIP) umbrella, which comprised Fiera Milano and Cinecittá Holding, the state-owned service and production company. Carlo Bassi, MIFED's managing director, became AIP's chairman; while Cinecittá's Giovanni Galoppi was appointed AIP president.

Let's review the key players: Fiera Milano SpA is owned by Fondazione Fiera Milano (controlled by the Lombardy Region), which owns Fiera Milano International, parts of Rassegne SpA and AIP. Even though there are too many suspects, the common denominator among this interconnected web of companies seems to be Flavio Cattaneo, who is now president of RAI and who, in 1999, was president of Rassegne SpA and president of Fiera Milano International (which, at one point ran MIFED), and who, in 2000, was president of Fiera Milano SpA. However, his tenures were before MIFED was killed; therefore he can be acquitted of any wrongdoing. The large number of suspects surely has to offer another clue. But, what?

At the time of MIFED's death, Fiera Milano's chairman was Pier Giacomo Ferrari, who supervised the formation of AIP; the Fair's president was Michele Perini; the president of Fiera Milano International was Francesco Milone; and the chairman of Fondazione Fiera Milano was Luigi Roth. Could the culprit(s) be among them?

Let's now move to the circumstantial evidence. Why was AIP created? Didn't MIFED have enough of its own power and prestige? Where did the AIP partner come from? Rome? Weren't the Rome-based companies always resentful of MIFED being in Milan? And, why is the Venice Film Festival left to agonize in disorganization and structural problems? Plus, didn't the mayor of Rome, the former Communist, Walter Veltroni, express interest in creating a new film festival and market, the "Festival di Roma," already in 2003? Did Milan Fair simply fall into a trap set up to kill MIFED? If this is the case, was then MIFED killed by a conspiracy?

On one hand, collective incompetence by the Milan Fair created an opening for a political plot to kill MIFED, which was orchestrated by the same people on the political left, who, when they were in power, chose not to reform the Italian audiovisual system. On the other hand, according to "Il Corriere della Sera," the "Festival of Rome", to be held at The Auditorium in October 2006, has been set up with a six-to-eight million euro budget by Veltroni's comrade Goffredo Bettini. At the same time, actor-director Roberto Benigni, who's close to Veltroni, chose to premier his new movie at the Toronto Film Festival, instead of Venice.

The circle is thus closed and, since it is a circle, no one can be accused. Case closed.

Dom Serafini