Prod'n lures designed to go beyond a coin flip

Apulia is taking a comprehensive approach to boosting cinema in the region, the idea being that a vibrant arts scene can contribute to its ambition of becoming a moviemaking hotspot.

Besides investing about 1 million euro ($1.3 million) to set up two state-of-the-art production services facilities called Cineporto, one in Bari, the other in Lecce, both aimed at making Apulia a more alluring production destination — but also designed to double as venues for public screenings and presentations — the Apulia Film Commission recently decided to become a driver for specialty releases in the region.

As of February, the Apulia commish has been running an arthouse exhibition loop comprising 20 screens throughout the region, supported with EU coin and programmed with 51% European fare.

The purpose is to nurture a specialty pic audience and support single-screen venues that offer an alternative to the mainstream offerings in a typical multiplex, says general director of the Apulia commision Silvio Maselli.

The region’s package of initiatives geared toward producers and distributors also targets filmgoers with several fests, the most prominent of which is the one-year-old Bari Intl. Film and TV Fest, headed by former Venice topper Felice Laudadio. The event unspools in January.

Laudadio hails from this region, as do a copious contingent of established Italo helmers, including Michele Placido, Sergio Rubini, Edoardo Winspeare and Alessandro Piva; thesp Riccardo Scamarcio (“Eden Is West”) and young comic Checco Zalone, a recent local box office sensation, also hail from Apulia — Rudolph Valentino also was a native.

Internationally, Apulia is known these days by world music fans for its traditional pizzica music, based on a fast-paced frenzied tambourine beat, which is said to have originated as a healing ritual for the bite of a tarantula, as depicted in Winspeare’s “Pizzicata.”

Italy’s art community has been licking its wounds recently after being bitten by deep budget cuts to the arts by the Silvio Berlusconi government. But, at a regional level, Apulia is singing a different tune.

“Some people think that in times of crisis, you must cut financing to culture,” said the region’s governor, Nichi Vendola. “Though that is what the central government is doing heavily, we want to invest instead, and be able to say that here in Apulia there is an opportunity for both cultural and economic growth, a chance to create resources and jobs for our youth.”

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