Niche distrib branches out into Italian co-prods

BIM Distribuzione, the Italo arthouse distrib that will release the lion’s share of Cannes competish titles in Italy, is going local, branching out into co-production of Italian movies.

BIM’s move comes in the wake of tougher times at the Italo box office for foreign auteur fare, just as local pics have been scoring with Italian auds lately alongside Hollywood 3D blockbusters.

BIM topper Valerio De Paolis points to disappointing Italo returns for Venice Golden Lion winner “Lebanon,” and also Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon,” which took Cannes’ Palme d’Or last year, and Jacques Audiard’s “A Prophet.” “Ribbon” and “Prophet” only tallied about 100,000 admissions each in Italy, he said.

“Festivals are giving us some beautiful movies, but they are really very hard to handle,” De Paolis said. “There used to be an arthouse audience in Italy but it has (become harder to reach), and I don’t really know why.”

BIM is backing a batch of Italian pics, starting with Sabina Guzzanti’s “Draquila — Italy Trembles,” on the current BIM Cannes lineup alongside new works by auteurs Abbas Kiarostami, Ken Loach and Stephen Frears, all of which will be going out via the distrib in Italy.

Other Italo titles on BIM’s slate:

n “Il Gioellino,” helmer Andrea Molaoli’s expose of the massive scandal at Parmalat, Italy’s largest food company. Toni Servillo (“Il Divo”) is toplining as a top Parmalat exec. Indigo Films is producing.

n “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” a drama marking the feature-film debut of former MTV Italia VJ Massimo Coppola, about two young women, one Italian, one Romanian, whose lives intersect in the Fiat factory where they both work in Melfi, Italy. Indigo Films is producing.

n “La pecora nera” (The Black Sheep), hot young theater thesp-helmer Ascanio Celestini’s feature film debut. A drama set in an Italian psychiatric ward starring Giorgio Tirabassi and Maya Sansa (“Good Morning, Night”). “Pecora” is being co-produced by RAI Cinema and BIM.

n “Buonanotte all’Italia,” a docu depicting contempo Italy through the prism of popular Italo rocker Ligabue’s concerts, to be helmed by Piergiorgio Gay.

“We are mostly interested in projects originated by other Italian companies, where we can step in to complete financing,” De Paolis said.

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