Actor prepares to unspool short film festival

ROME — As a man-made “replicant” in sci-fi classic “Blade Runner,” Rutger Hauer has a memorable speech that begins with the line: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”

Literally, as the thesp is behind a new film festival and distribution plan with his Milan-based I’ve Seen Films fest for short films. Those pics will be beamed by satellite onto Italo screens via Microcinema, a cutting-edge Italo outfit, in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA).

Thanks to a recent agreement, a selection of the 337 shorts from 90 countries unspooling in crisp Blu-ray at the second edition of Hauer’s fest will also be beamed to digitally equipped cinemas across Italy via satellite ahead of the main feature. The event’s closing-night gala will go out live in high definition on Microcinema’s circuit, and also in select European digital theaters via ESA’s Innovative Satellite Interactive Digital Entertainment project.

The high-profile jury of the Sept. 24-Oct. 3 fest includes helmers Ridley Scott (who directed Hauer in “Blade Runner”), Robert Rodriguez, Paul Verhoeven and Anton Corbijn.

Hauer, who is making catchwords like “digital” and “new platforms” his mantra, sort of sees himself as pioneer of a film festival and film distribution model that offers emerging artists fresh outlets.

“I’m just excited about the whole world of possibilities that I see in the rapidly changing digital arena in terms of being a filmmaker and bringing your ideas in front of an audience,” he says.

Turin-based Microcinema, which operates about 80 screens, touts itself as Europe’s largest satellite digital distribution network. In 2007, it launched its then-25-screen loop by beaming the live opening-night performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata” from Rome’s Teatro Dell’Opera in what execs claimed was the first national hookup of this type. Last year, Microcinema showed the live bow of Milan’s famed La Scala opera season to 5,000 spectators in Italo movie theaters.

This year Microcinema distributed its first 3-D pic, “Monsters vs. Aliens,” via satellite using its multi-format M-box system.

“We now expect our circuit to grow at a rate of about 100 digital screens a year,” says Microcinema spokesman Luca De Gasperin.

Because it eliminates the print fee, “theater owners know that this is where we are going,” says Hauer.

But he is clearly more interested in how new technology can give filmmakers more visibility.

Besides his I’ve Seen Films fest, Hauer also runs intensive film courses in Rotterdam through his Rutger Hauer Filmfactory. Between June 18-28, these will see Verhoeven and Rodriguez hold “virtual master classes” via Skype, while Polish helmer-producer Lech Majewski (“The Garden of Earthly Delights”) and Belgian cinematographer Walther van den Ende (“Merry Christmas”) will be on hand as coaches.

As for acting, Hauer — whose last memorable Hollywood role was as rapacious corporate bigwig Richard Earle in “Batman Begins” — will soon be on Italian screens as crusading Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in Italo helmer Renzo Martinelli’s “Barbarossa” epic. A clutch of other films starring Hauer await release, including Majewski’s “The Mill and the Cross,” in which he plays Dutch painter Peter Brueghel.

Meanwhile, Hauer is trying to mount a passion project titled “A Reluctant Hero” about banker Wally van Hall who almost single-handedly funded the Dutch anti-Nazi resistance, interestingly through a series of audacious financial frauds.

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