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CANNES: Italy’s BLS Film Fund Makes Cannes Bow With ‘Sils Maria’ and Ramps Up New Prods (EXCLUSIVE)

Three years after its launch, Italy’s Business Location South Tyrol — Alto Adige BLS film fund is at Cannes with its first two pics in the fest’s official selection – Olivier Assayas’ competition entry “Clouds of Sils Maria” and Ruben Ostlund’s “Force Majeure” – both shot in the autonomous Alpine province at Italy’s northern point, now increasingly gaining prominence as a prime central European film destination.

“We are better known now, so we’ve attracted higher-caliber pictures lately,” says BLS topper Christiana Wertz (pictured) noting that they are both pics with no Italian elements.

That said, “our main strategy remains to focus on the Italian and German markets and to try and foster more co-productions between the two countries,” Wertz hastens to add.

BLS hands out €5 million ($7 million) yearly with a $2 million cap per project. Producers must reinvest at least 150% of spend locally. They also have a development fund which is starting to germinate projects expected to come shoot in the region, and they hold screenwriting and co-production workshops. The idea is to support around 30 projects per year.

Upcoming pics currently shooting in the Alpine region are “Sworn Virgin” by Italo first-timer Laura Bispuri, toplining Alba Rohrwacher (“The Marvels”) as an Albanian woman who, in accordance with an archaic custom, swears to remain a virgin and basically impersonate a man in order to obtain the same rights as men within a village community. Co-produced by Italy’s Vivo Film and Germany’s Match Factory, “Virgin” got  €196,000 ($267,000) in BLS coin.

Cameras are also rolling in the cities of Bolzano and Merano on “Alaska,” a drama by Claudio Cupellini (“A Quiet Life”) starring Elio Germano and Alba Rohrwacher being co-produced by Italy’s Indiana Production and France’s Films SAS. “Alaska” tapped into €350,000 ($477,000) in BLS funding.

Also expected to be soon shooting in South Tyrol is Jean Reno-starrer “The Way of the Eagle,” produced by Red Bull Media’s Terra Mater Factual Studios, which obtained € 600,000 ($817,000) in BLS coin.

“We rarely give out the top (€ 1.5 million) amount; but we tend to provide a big enough piece of a film’s budget to make us pretty attractive,” says Wertz.

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