Italian producers take multi-national approach

Indiana Productions plans Italian, Brazilian, English-language titles

ROME — A bittersweet Italian comedy titled “La prima cosa bella” is going up against “Avatar” in Italy, marking the bow of an Italo shingle called Indiana Production, which is making “international” its watchword. The three-year-old shingle is also in talks with Joel Schumacher to direct “The Woman at the Met,” an adaptation of French novel “La fille de Carnegie.”

Indiana Production, with offices in Milan, Paris and Los Angeles, and Gabriele Muccino — helmer of Will Smith starrers “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Seven Pounds” — among its partners, made its first outing on Italy’s theatrical circuit Jan. 15 alongside “Avatar” with the critically well-received “Cosa bella,” helmed by Paolo Virzi (“Ovosodo,” “Caterina in the Big City”). It’s a piece spanning three decades in the Italian provinces, with Bernardo Bertolucci muse Stefania Sandrelli delivering what is being hailed as a potent perf.

The $8.5 million “Cosa Bella,” released locally by Medusa but being sold internationally by Indiana, is the first Italian feature for the company, which has been quietly active for three years.

The pic will test Indiana’s belief that “great Italian comedies can have a universal value and an international market,” as partner Benedetto Habib, a Milanese finance and media entrepreneur, puts it. The other Indiana partners are producer and scribe Fabrizio Donvito and producer Marco Cohen.

Of course the textbook example of a contempo Italo comedy that traveled is Muccino’s “L’ultimo Bacio” (The Last Kiss), which became Muccino’s ticket to Hollywood. Incidentally, Muccino’s Italian “Kiss” sequel 10 years later, “Baciami Ancora” (Kiss Me Again) goes out in Italy Jan 29. (Indiana is not involved in “Kiss Me Again,” which is co-produced by Muccino’s regular Italo producer Domenico Procacci with Medusa.)

Indiana’s international bent is also evidenced by its first feature, Brazilian culinary revenge drama “Estomago: A Gastronomic Story,” by Marcos Jorge, which in 2007 and 2008 scooped a score of prizes on the Latin American fest circuit. Talks are underway for a Yank remake.

The Boston-set TV movie, “Four Single Fathers,” penned by Muccino in tandem with Stateside scribe Liz Tucillo (“Sex and the City”), and co-produced with Mediaset, marks Mediaset’s first English-language foray. It’s an ideal business model for Indiana, which is keen on setting up international co-productions for English-language TV projects.

We want to distinguish ourselves by our wide range of product and a strong international outlook,” Habib says.

Also in Indiana’s pipeline are Italian-language TV movie “Un paradiso per due,” an ecological fable shot in Uruguay soon to air on Mediaset, and “Big Luciano Pavarotti — The True Story” an English-language telepic being developed with Pavarotti’s second wife, Nicoletta Mantovani.

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