Marco Mueller Expected to Head Italy’s Upcoming Taormina Film Festival (EXCLUSIVE)

Veteran film festivals curator and chief Marco Mueller, who over the past decades has headed both the Venice and Rome fests – among several other events – is operationally back in Italy where he is expected to be appointed artistic director of Sicily’s storied but troubled Taormina Film Festival.

According to several sources Mueller, who in more recent years relocated to China, is expected to sign a contract on Thursday to become Taormina fest chief. The event is run by the Fondazione Taormina Arte Sicilia foundation currently being managed by Sergio Bonomo. Bonomo is a former board member of the foundation who was put in charge of Taormina Arte by the local government in January after political squabbles caused another board member to resign and the board to fall apart.

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Mueller, 70, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Over the years he has amassed plenty of experience at Rotterdam, Locarno, Venice – where he had a positive 8-year run – Rome and, more recently China’s Pingyao fest and the new Asia-Europe Young Cinema Festival that ran in early January in Macau. He is based in Shanghai, China, and is expected to remain living there.

Mueller’s next challenge will be to assemble Taormina’s upcoming 70th edition this summer, probably in early July, with only a few months to secure titles.

Taormina, which is one of Italy’s oldest movie celebrations, has undergone many makeovers through the years as political turbulence often undermined the quality and continuity of its management.

Held since the mid-1950s in the Sicilian resort known to U.S. audiences as the location of “The White Lotus” Season Two, the storied summer fest boasts an 8,000-seat open-air ancient Greek amphitheater in the shadow of Sicily’s active Mt. Etna volcano. Guests have included Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Steven Spielberg, Federico Fellini, Pedro Almodovar and Tom Cruise.

In 2000 Cruise stood on the Greek amphitheater’s stage, greeted by hundreds of lit candles and a standing ovation to celebrate his 38th birthday while he was promoting “Mission: Impossible 2.” But ups and downs followed, as several chiefs took the Taormina reins over the ensuing decades, until more recently the event fell off the international radar as it became mired in local squabbles and power plays.

Last year Taormina was run by Barrett Wissman, a Texan who for the past 20 years has been the chairman of IMG Artists, and who did his best to give the fest a boost. Wissman secured the Italian premiere of “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” with the main cast, including Harrison Ford and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, in tow.

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