ROME — Call it a sign of the times: China Central Television is shooting a big-budget soap in Tuscany.
Titled “The China Story,” the $14 million, 40-episode sudser is centered around a family that emigrated from the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang to Tuscany, where they find hardship and eventually success.
Shepherded by prominent Chinese TV personality Cui Yongyuan, the episodic saga is targeting a potential aud of more than 1 billion.
The production reflects a real immigration phenom in Italy: Starting in the 1980s, the city of Prato, a textile hub just outside Florence, gradually became home to the largest concentration of Chinese in Europe, prompting racial tensions and resentments as the low-end Chinese clothes manufacturers forced many local garment makers to shut down.
The production is shooting in nearby Lucca, rather than Prato.
Judging by the casting call notes, not all Italians will be portrayed positively. One Italo character is described as “mean” and “anti-Chinese,” while Italian police are “clumsy” and “fat.”
But “China Story” marks the biggest Tuscan shoot since 2008 James Bond pic “Quantum of Solace,” and the Tuscany Film Commission isn’t the least bit bothered about potentially acrimonious issues.
“It’s a story with a happy ending that promotes the image of Tuscany as embodying a new, rich and winning lifestyle, making it a huge magnet for Chinese tourism,” says Tuscany commish chief Stefania Ippoliti.
Brazilian telenovela “Passione,” shot by Rede Globo in Florence and Siena in 2009, has aired in 200 territories since 2010, prompting Latin American tourism in Tuscany to skyrocket.
Meanwhile, Indian pic “Rajapattai” recently wrapped its shoot in Lucca and its environs. The Tamil actioner, helmed by Suseenthiran and toplining Vikram and Deeksha Seth, may bring Indian tourists to the region next.