June/July 2012
Volume 32 No. 4

June 2012
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The Drama of RFF Is Like Fiction

What Americans call “drama,” Italians and Europeans in general refer to as “fiction.” And in the case of the fourth annual Roma Fiction Fest (RFF), one cannot say whether what will unfold is clearly a drama or a work of fiction. The event is set to take place July 5-10 in Rome at its traditional three venues: Conciliazione Auditorium, Adriano Multiplex Cinema and the Lumsa University AV complex, all near the Vatican.

roma fiction fest

The drama began last November with the resignation of Piero Marrazzo as governor of the Lazio Region. Marrazzo had been the driving force behind the event.
It continued with the changing of the guard last March when Marrazzo’s center-left government was replaced by a new center-right governor.

But the breaking point occurred last January, with RFF’s budget cut to seven million euro (U.S. $8.7 million) from the original nine million — 70 percent of which was supposed to come from government institutions. Subsequently, RFF’s budget was further reduced to 6.5 million euro, of which 77 percent came from the Rome-based Roberto Rossellini Foundation (RRF), RFF’s new parent organization.

And as if this weren’t enough, in early May, the Fest lost control of its domain name (now partially restored) and website (however, contacts were maintained through www.fondazionerossellini.it).

Now let’s move on to what seems like fiction, and is even stranger than the drama. Marrazzo, a former TV journalist with state broadcaster RAI, was caught visiting transsexual prostitutes, at times using resources from the Lazio Region. The scandal grew when some of those prostitutes were found dead because of their involvement with drugs, and when a group of police officers were arrested for blackmailing the governor and allegedly killing the prostitutes and their pimp.
Marrazzo’s resignation brought about a premature end to the career of a brilliant politician (who might have one day become Italy’s Prime Minister if it weren’t for a temporary loss of judgment), and a prosperous future for RFF, which could very well become the Italian audiovisual industry’s replacement for MIFED, a film-TV market held in Milan until 2004, when it ceased operation due to the incompetence of the executives who ran it on behalf of the Milan Fair.

However, all that turmoil could still be contained if weren’t for the crisis which the Italian television industry is currently experiencing, with RAI in the midst of budget cuts, restructuring divisions and changing the board of directors of several of its subsidiaries, and private broadcaster Mediaset in the middle of a tug-of-war with Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia. To all of this, one has to add 50 percent reduction (about 10.7 million euro) of annual state subsidies to art and culture, with up to 232 cultural entities completely cut off from subsidies, including Rome’s Center of Experimental Cinematography.

Nonetheless, the show must go on, and RFF organizers were out in full force in Cannes for a promotional blitz during MIP-TV, which included a well-attended party at the Majestic Hotel’s beach restaurant and a front cover story in a Daily edition of VideoAge. RFF also received the full endorsement of the 50 Italian entertainment companies present at MIP-TV.

With a center-right administration in the Lazio Region, which was intent on cutting budgets for “extravaganzas” such as RFF, the event’s base moved from the Region to the Rossellini Foundation and with it some of the top-level executives close to Marrazzo. But there was some shuffling of personnel, with Carlo Machitella now in charge of publications, while the “Industry” or trade section of RFF is now under the leadership of Britain’s Antony (correct spelling) Root, a former BBC executive. Steve Della Casa remains the Festival’s artistic director.Michele Misuraca, former press spokesperson for Marrazzo (when he was governor), and now director of RRF and RFF’s general manager, said that RFF is supported by the Rome Chamber of Commerce and the APT (Italy’s Television Producers Association), with the cooperation of ICE, the Italian Trade Commission, plus private enterprises such as BMW, a main sponsor of the event.

Last January in New York City, Francesco Gesualdi, chairman of RRF, announced that the stars of Disney’s Desperate Housewives could be the fest’s guests of honor.
At the same time, the American Kass Thomas Corbelli, deputy director of the Industry section — which includes a market with stands — said that Walt Disney studios will possibly be partners for the Industry portion of the event (July 5-8), which, as usual, will be held at the Lumsa complex.

Last year’s event saw more than 43,000 viewers attend its screenings, with 4,000 members of the worldwide press registered alongside the 1,000 industry participants, 90 international guests and 22 production companies. RFF’s Industry window, featuring RomaTVPitching and RomaTVScreenings sessions, had more than 1,000 participants and international guests from six continents. Twenty-two television broadcasters and four national TV networks were involved in last year’s Screenings, presenting over 60 productions. RomaTVPitching featured 350 meetings between producers and potential clients.

The aim of RFF is to keep the Italian industry growing through the enhancement and export of Italy’s best audiovisual content — a difficult task considering that for both film and TV products, Italy’s exports barely reach 20 million euro (U.S. $25 million) per year.