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Downtown inks first-look deal with RAI

Bologna-based co. also pacts with Fabrica

VENICE — Downtown Pictures topper Marco Muller announced Saturday he has signed a two-year, first-look deal with Italy’s RAI Cinema for his company’s slate of features and docs.

Bologna-based Downtown also has an output deal with Fabrica — the Benetton-owned mass communication research center — for all pics made outside the Western territories. Muller also tops Fabrica’s film and video arm.

“I supplied Fabrica with new territories,” Muller told Daily Variety on Sunday. “Now I will supply new directors as well.”

Muller has produced nine award-winning international features for Fabrica Cinema, including Danis Tanovic’s “No Man’s Land,” which won the screenplay prize at Cannes 2001 and Oscar for foreign language film in 2002. Muller formed Downtown in April to get involved in European and Western pics falling outside “the Fabrica philosophy of the United Colors of Cinema,” he explained. Fabrica has always been hesitant about financing films in countries where they have partnerships in other non-cinema ventures.

“I’ve always loved uncharted territories, so now I’m treating Italy as one,” explained Muller, who ran the Locarno film fest from 1991-2000. “Downtown will do the films no other Italian producer will touch.”

Downtown has five pics on its production slate. These include the English-lingo Italian/U.S. co-production “Oakland Is Not for Burning,” by frosh feature helmer Gianfranco Rosi, who won the Sundance audience award in 1993 for his doc “Boatman.”