Italy and China sign co-production agreement

ROME — The Italian government has approved a film co-production treaty with China giving the Italo biz more inroads into the potentially huge market.

Under the treaty, which ratifies a preliminary accord inked in 2004, films with strong local elements from both countries, such as director and cast, will be eligible for Italian support.

But the long-gestating treaty also contains the key proviso that an English-language version of co-productions must be made for international distribution, alongside versions in Italian and Mandarin.

Perhaps most importantly, it states that production or distribution of Italo-Chinese co-productions cannot be blocked by Chinese censors. This issue, which will be difficult to enforce, had previously stalled the treaty’s approval in the Italian parliament.

The first project to benefit from the treaty will be a 52-part, made-for-TV toon about Marco Polo, the Venetian explorer who ventured to China in the 13th century — being co-produced by Italo pubcaster RAI and Chinese pubcaster CCTV.

Italo-Chinese collaborations include Chinese helmer Zhang Yuan’s 2006 art pic “Little Red Flowers,” produced by current Venice topper Marco Mueller, and Italian helmer Gianni Amelio’s China-set “The Missing Star,” produced by RAI Cinema, which unspooled in Venice in 2006.

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