With three pics in competition and lots of promising news titles in other sections and the market, this is a big year for Italy at Berlin, meaning a bigger Italo effort in the market and more participants than usual.

Italian buyers know this is a quality showcase, and say they will be shopping for the best to take home. The new Eastern and Central European indie productions are also attracting keen interest.

One of the biggest traders will be Sacis, the sales agent for RAI, which is handling two competition films: Marco Bellocchio’s controversial “The Condemnation,” sure to generate interest and maybe raise some hackles, and “Ultras,” Ricky Tognazzi’s second helming effort, which is enjoying excellent word-of-mouth.

Another Sacis picture is Jiri Weiss’ “Martha And I,” screening in the New German Cinema showcase. Sacis partner Paola Corvino and her Intrafilm distribbery are planning to attend.

The third Italian entry in competition is “The House Of Smiles” by veteran Marco Ferreri. Titanus Distribuzione and new foreign sales chief Sesto Cifola, formerly with Sacis, will be at the Italian stand in the market vending this pic and Cristina Comencini’s saucy tongue-in-cheek costumer, “Amusements Of The Private Life.” As a distrib, Cifola is looking for quality European films as well as co-producers for international ventures.

Not to be missed, especially by fans of “Red Lob,” is Nanni Moretti’s ironic hour-long docu “The Thing,” on how the Italian Communist Party debated its change of name and orientation; pic will unspool in the Forum. To be looked for in the market: new films by Fabio Carpi, Carlo Lizzani and Gabriele Salvatores.

Ettore Scola’s lush costumer “Captain Fracassa’s Journey” will close the festival but unreels out of competition, as the director wishes. Co-producer Pentafilm is sending execs to the screening but plans no formal commercial representation.

Berlin is more to the taste of Italy’s small arthouse distribs, like Valerio De Paolis’s Bim and Roberto Cicutto’s Mikado (repped by Luigi Musini this year).

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