Italo publisher preps lit-based pix

Feltrinelli sets up Milan-based shingle Eskimosa

ROME — Feltrinelli, the prominent Italo publisher whose international heavyweight authors include Isabel Allende, Cynthia Ozick, and Amos Oz, is branching out into moviemaking with a slate of offbeat docus and feature films reflecting the imprint’s leftist bent.

Having fared handsomely with a line of combo book-and-DVD-titles, packaging fare such as “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “The Motorcycle Diaries,” “Super-Size Me” and “Mondovino,” with correspondingly themed tomes — distributed in its nationwide bookstore chain — Feltrinelli has now set up its own Milan-based production shingle, called Eskimosa.

“The mandate is to be international, not just Italian,” says Eskimosa topper Carlo Cresto-Dina. Feltrinelli’s film production chief was formerly head of the docu unit at Domenico Procacci’s Fandango, where Cresto-Dina also shepherded the Abbas Kiarostami, Ermanno Olmi and Ken Loach collective pic “Tickets.”

With plans for just three or four titles a year, Cresto-Dina says Eskimosa is a far cry from Random House Films, in terms of size. “But I do think we are driven by a similar desire to appeal to book readers who are not necessarily movie buffs,” he adds.

First pic in the Eskimosa pipeline is West Bank-set dramedy “Sharon and My Mother-in-Law,” based on Palestinian author Suad Amiry’s diaries describing how the Israeli occupation forced her into painful co-habitation with her mother-in-law. Title is published in the U.S. by Pantheon. Palestinian helmer Michel Khleifi (“Route 181: Fragments of a Journey in Palestine-Israel”) is attached to helm.

Also in the works is “Noi Credevamo” (We Believed), a tale of terrorism set in Italy’s 19th century Risorgimento, to be helmed by Italo auteur Mario Martone (“L’amore Molesto”). Martone is co-penning with scribe Giancarlo De Cataldo (“Romanzo Criminale”).

Eskimosa recently inked a pact with RAI Cinema to co-produce four docus, the first of which, “Che Cosa Manca” (What’s Missing), will be a feature-length montage of 10-minute shorts by young Italo helmers, each attempting to encapsulate the country’s current political state.

“This will not be the nth anti-Berlusconi rant,” Cresto Dina says, “but just a way to look at different aspects of what’s happening in Italy’s body politic today.”

The Feltrinelli imprint, founded in 1954 by Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, a wealthy Marxist revolutionary who blew himself up while trying to cut off Milan’s electricity supply, is the theme of “Il Mestiere di Fare Libri” (The Bookmaker’s Vocation), Eskimosa’s first completed project. Docu, helmed by Alessandro Rossetto, has been submitted to the Berlin fest.

Given Eskimosa’s embryonic state, the shingle will be tapping into only a fraction of Feltrinelli’s rights, the bulk of which for the moment will remain available to local producers, Cresto-Dina says.

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