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‘Dark’ lights new Italian prod’n entity

Shooting wraps later this month on “Marciando nel Buio” (Marching in the Dark), the first feature from the newly founded production stable of Zeudi Araya, the widow of legendary Italo producer Franco Cristaldi.

Directed by Massimo Spano, best known for his work as production designer on the films of Marco Risi, the $3.2 million feature appears likely to spark controversy with its agressively anti-military stance and its forthright treatment of homosexuality and male rape in the armed forces.

The drama’s potentially volatile subject, along with its vehement opposition to the institution of obligatory military service, place some doubt over its chances of being broadcast on Italian TV. So far, no national theatrical distributor is attached.

Aside from government seed money, Araya got the production off the ground single-handedly via her Zeudi and Franco Cristaldi Film operation. “I’m not worried that there’s no television pre-sale and no distributor,” she said. “All that matters to me is making a good film.”

Among other projects announced by the Eritrean-born former actress is “The Tuscan Cigar,” a new feature from veteran director Alberto Lattuada.

Araya’s new activity will operate independently from both Vides Cinematografica and Cristaldi Film, the production outfits inherited from her husband, which she co-owns with his son, Massimo Cristaldi.

Franco Cristaldi’s career encompassed such Italo classics as Francesco Rosi’s “Salvatore Giuliano” and “Lucky Luciano,” Gillo Pontecorvo’s “Kapo” and Mario Monicelli’s “Big Deal on Madonna Street.” The late producer is best remembered, however, for the Oscar winners “Divorce – Italian Style,” “Amarcord” and “Cinema Paradiso.”

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