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Italy boards ‘Night Bus’ to China

Industryites send filmmakes to China after pic's success

Italy’s film industry is embarking on a mission to forge closer ties with China, following the success of Italo romantic crimer “Night Bus,” now set to unspool on a massive 2,000 Chinese screens.

Debut helmer Davide Marengo’s “Night Bus” clicked with Chinese auds at the Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival and the Shanghai Film Festival in 2008. It will soon go out in mainland China via Focus Cultural Media, following a unique deal inked by Italo sales company Intramovies.

“Bus” is the first Italian release in China since Roberto Benigni’s “Life Is Beautiful” in 1999.

The Italian Culture Ministry announced Thursday that a delegation of industryites from local motion picture and TV producers’ orgs, Anica and APT, pubcaster RAI and commercial broadcast group Mediaset is now headed to Beijing and Shanghai for meetings with reps from China Film Group, Beijing Film Studio and the China Film Coproduction Corp., among others.

The purpose is “to understand how we can work on film and TV projects together” said “Night Bus” producer Sandro Silvestri. The mission to China follows the Italian government’s ratification of a co-production agreement with China in February.

“Night Bus,” which stars local A-lister Giovanna Mezzogiorno as a sexy swindler who becomes entangled with a bus driver, played by Valerio Mastandrea (“Nine”), was produced by RAI Cinema on a microbudget and became a 2007 sleeper hit in Italy.

Since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, China has capped the number of foreign films it allows into its theaters at around 25 titles per year.

Silvestri said that besides trying to set up Italo-Chinese co-productions, which would automatically gain access to Chinese screens, Italy will also be discussing new terms for “reciprocal distribution” of movies, similar to agreements that France has been negotiating with China.

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