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Procacci brings British flavor to Italian pics

Fandango touts elusive award contenders

ROME– 2004 is shaping up as a pretty good year for Domenico Procacci.

In January, the Italo producer with a bent for English-language pics acquired control of the U.K.’s Civilian Content.

In February the dark drama “First Love,” made by his Fandango shingle and directed by Matteo Garrone, was the sole Italian entry to vie for a Berlin Golden Bear.

And now Paolo Sorrentino’s contempo Mafia romancer “Le Conseguenze dell’Amore” is Italy’s only contender for Cannes’ Palme d’Or.

Fandango — founded 15 years ago and named after the coming-of-age movie that launched Kevin Costner’s career — has hit its stride in the past five years, shepherding the bulk of hot titles from the country’s freshman helming class, including box office heavyweight Gabriele Muccino (“The Last Kiss”), and steadily expanding operations.

In 1999, Procacci branched out into publishing (David Foster Wallace’s meaty tome “Infinite Jest” is among Fandango’s book titles). Then came film distribution, a music label and now even a tiny, 10-student film school called Fandango Lab.

Procacci first ventured into making English-language pics — rare for an Italo industryite — in 1993 when he produced Aussie helmer Rolf de Heer’s provocative “Bad Boy Bubby.” That pic started his longstanding rapport with de Heer and the film community in Oz, where in 2002 he set up Fandango Australia.

Now, Procacci has set his sights a little higher.

“What I want to create is a real link between Rome, London and Australia,” he says, speaking from his unpretentious office in Fandango’s new, bigger, digs on the same Rome residential back street as its old headquarters.

The purchase, for $1.6 million), of a 29% stake in Civilian, which is the publicly listed parent of the Film Consortium and of its sister sales unit The Works, marks the first time an Italian has held a significant chunk in a British outfit since the early 1990’s.

More importantly, it gives Procacci a financing and sales platform from which to develop higher-profile English-lingo projects.

These include “The Golden Gate,” an Ellis Island-set immigrant drama by Emanuele Crialese, whose “Respiro” Procacci co-produced; “Silk,” an adaptation of Italo scribe Alessandro Baricco’s novel about a 19th-century silk merchant, with no helmer yet attached; and a London-set comedy by Aussie helmer and Fandango Australia partner Richard Lowenstein (“He Died With a Falafel in His Hand”).

“What I want to do is give my Australian projects more of a European component, and perhaps have an Italian or two take the leap into making a movie in English,” says Procacci. He hastens to add, “By no means should this be misconstrued as meaning that I made my London move to start making English-language movies by Italian helmers.”

Battered by a string of flops and with its U.K. lottery franchise expired as of last month, the Film Consortium is not, on the surface, a winning proposition.

Besides relishing the opportunity to team up with Civilian’s Chris Auty, a longtime associate with whom he made Milcho Manchevski’s ill-fated Euro oater “Dust,” Procacci will be working closely with London-based producer Nadine Luque, former production chief at Lolafilm’s U.K. arm. Luque will co-produce both “The Golden Gate” and “Silk.”

Meanwhile, Procacci has five pics by Italo young bloods, some of them first-timers, lined up for Fandango.

Local projects in post include a youth drama starring nonpros set in Turin’s industrial wasteland, titled “Not Even Fate,” from sophomore helmer Daniele Gaglianone, and “Fascists on Mars,” a surreal comedy by TV comic Corrado Guzzanti.

Due to its wide range of activities, Fandango is sometimes locally dubbed a “mini-major,” a moniker that makes Procacci shriek.

“Very mini and not at all major,” he says. “For the majors, the whole point is to reach as large an audience as possible. For me, it is to make movies with something interesting to say.”

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