Wim Wenders helms 3D pic in Italy

Horror, teen pics also in the works

ROME Wim Wenders is pioneering new wave of 3D production in Italy.

The Teutonic auteur, who has been working in Italy lately, has recently completed principal photography on a 27-minute 3D docudrama titled “Il Volo,” starring Ben Gazzara as a small town mayor with a big vision for social integration.

Now there are high hopes that “Il Volo,” which translates literally as “The Flight,” will pave the way for some Italo 3D features to spread their wings.

Produced on a budget of roughly $500,000, Wenders’ first foray into 3-D comes after production on “Pina,” his planned 3D tribute to Pina Bausch was halted after the late great choreographer and dancer’s death last year.

Coin for Wenders’ 3D “Flight” was put up mostly by the Southern Italian Calabria region with everyone involved working either free or for scale. Bologna-based oufit Lilliwood provided the stereoscopic equipment, manpower, and know-how to operate a synchronized camera system it has developed.

“It’s a promotional product for us,” says Lilliwood producer Gianfranco Borgatti who is quick to point out that, in contrast with a Yank propensity to see stereoscopy as a way to wow auds with bigger effects, “3D can be a way to heighten a sense of naturalistic, rather than supernatural reality,” indicating that Italy may be looking to develop an auteurish 3D style in a quasi neorealist vein.

The tale of Wenders’ fact-based “Flight” certainly has plenty of neo-realist elements.

Gazzara plays the mayor of a crumbling Calabrian village all but adandoned by locals who in 1997 decided to welcome a boatload of Kurdish refugees washed up on the Calabrian shore, both as a humanitarian act and as a way to keep the village from fading into extinction due to a lack of indigenous population. The smart move gave way to a pilot social integration project.

“In Calabria I have seen a better world for the first time,” Wenders enthused at a Berlin meet of Nobel Peace prizewinners in November 2009 where he first announced his “Flight” pic.

Ironically, Calabria is also where, more recently, racial tensions that flared up in other areas of the region, made world headlines. But that, of course, is another story.

As for Italy’s 3D evolution, the country is undoubtedly at the forefront of the phenom in Europe in terms of 3D screens which have seen exponential growth in 2009, with more than 400 Italo screens now digital 3D ready, and 3D pics already accounting for 10% of the Italo box office. “Avatar” bowed bigger in Italy than Germany or Spain.

So it’s only natural that local producers are looking to cash in, too.

Producer Vito Matassino, a former UIP and Filmauro exec, recently announced plans for stereoscopic cameras to start rolling by this summer on an English-language adaptation of the classic Henry James ghost novella “The Turn of the Screw” touted as Italy’s first new generation 3D feature, to be helmed by Italo horror helmer Marcello Avallone (“Specters,” “The Last Cut”) and produced by his new Europictures shingle.

Lilliwood will be handling the stereoscopy side of the Italo 3D “Turn of the Screw” redo.

Meanwhile pioneer Italo digital helmer Maurizio Nichetti (“Icicle Theif,” “Honolulu Baby”) is in development on a Pompei-set 3D teen romancer, also in English, for which producer Fulvio Lucisano is seeking partners.

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