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Lakeshore boards RAI’s ‘Singing’

$8 mil pic lenses in September

CANNES — Strengthening its existing relationship with Italian pubcaster film unit RAI Cinema, Lakeshore Entertainment will come in through its U.K. division as a minority co-producer to handle U.S. and international sales on veteran director Ermanno Olmi’s next feature, “Singing Behind the Screens.”

Set at the close of the 17th century along the China coast, the period drama concerns the widow of a pirate chief who assumes command and must find a way to maintain that power or be defeated.

Principal photography will start in September on location in Montenegro with studio work in Italy. Budget is expected to be in the region of €9 million ($8 million). The language of the film is still to be decided given that the drama will be largely silent with minimal dialogue. Cast has not yet been set.

Olmi will produce with Roberto Cicutto and Luigi Musini, for the director’s CinemaUndici stable and RAI Cinema, with Pierre Grise Prods. figuring as co-producer. Domestic distribution will be either through RAI’s 01 banner or Mikado, headed by Cicutto and Musini. Les Films du Losange will release the film in France.

Together with Miramax’s co-production of “Malena” and worldwide pickup of Roberto Benigni’s upcoming “Pinocchio,” Lakeshore’s entry into the Olmi project marks a rare instance of a U.S. company coming in on an Italian feature at pre-production stage.

“We are very pleased to be able to contribute to the production of a film from one of the great masters of Italian cinema, who certainly deserves a much wider international audience,” said Lakeshore CEO Tom Rosenberg.

“The participation of one of the most prestigious American independent production companies in the Olmi film is an obvious sign of renewed international confidence in Italian cinema,” commented Giancarlo Leone, CEO of RAI Cinema.

RAI Cinema through 01 Distribution has an established relationship with Lakeshore. The Italian distrib recently acquired rights to the company’s Philip Roth adaptation “The Human Stain,” currently in production starring Nicole Kidman and Anthony Hopkins and directed by Robert Benton.

Olmi’s most recent feature “The Profession of Arms” will have its U.S. premiere June 7 in an Italian film season at New York’s Lincoln Center. The Renaissance war drama last month won nine David di Donatello awards – Italy’s top film honors – including best film and director.