ROME – Italian director Ettore Scola, honored on Thursday with the Turin Film Festival’s Gran Premio Torino lifetime achievement honor, on Friday met with the National Film Museum workers whose plight prompted the controversial withdrawal from the festival by fellow honoree Ken Loach.
And he criticized Loach's decision to skip the festival as "not useful" to the cause of the workers.
The 81-year-old Scola, whose film credits include eight Cannes Palme d’Or nominations between 1970 and 1989, including a share of the Cannes Best Screenplay nomination in 1980 for La Terazza, was contacted by disgruntled museum workers in the same way as fellow auteur Loach.
But the two men responded differently to the situation, in which custodial and security employees complained their jobs were outsourced, resulting in pay reductions and some layoffs.
Loach stirred controversy when he announced just two days before the Nov. 23 start of the Turin festival that he would not attend or accept the award. The ripples from that decision are still being felt, as Turin artistic director Gianni Amelio took another swipe at Loach in public comments as recently as Thursday, while the city government in Turin is reportedly launching a lawsuit against the 76-year-old Loach, seeking damages.
Scola, meanwhile, said he responded to the workers by telling them, “I understand their struggle, [but] I did not think it appropriate to refuse the honor, as it would have been an unfair gesture for the festival … and of little use to their cause.”
Later, Scola said Loach’s decision was “not useful.” He used his remarks at the prize ceremony, in which he was honored by Amelio and Alberto Barbera, the film museum director and the new artistic director of the Venice Film Festival, to reveal that he planned to meet with the museum workers the following day.
“I will meet with these workers in this agitated state, as it is always important to hear the reasons behind the struggle of people who are going through a difficult time,” Scola said.
Thanks to the controversy surrounding Loach's withdrawal, the plight of the museum workers became front-page news in Italy.
For its part, the museum said Loach had been “badly informed” and that no workers were fired and none were treated illegally or unethically.
Scola’s honor was one of the highlights of a festival so far marked by unusually strong ticket sales and generally positive coverage in the Italian media, both in contrast to rivals Venice and Rome, both of which saw ticket sales fall compared to 2011 and which drew criticisms from Italian media.
The 30-year-old Turin event ends Saturday with the closing film, Ginger & Rosa, a 1960s coming-of-age story from U.K. director Sally Potter, and an awards ceremony in which the winner from among 16 in-competition titles will be named.