The recently re-christened and refurbished Roma Studios, formerly known informally as Dinocitta, made a splash in Cannes on Sunday with champagne, Italian nibbles and big news about their facilities. Built nearly 40 years by Dino De Laurentiis on the outskirts of Rome, the Roma soundstages rank among the largest in Europe. Partially operative since June of 2001, the facilities are now fully functional and the biggest news to come out of the Roma bash was their landing of the new Brian De Palma film, a coup in the highly competitive Euro studios scene.
Key Roma project backer, Quinta Communications CEO Tarak Ben Ammar, produced De Palma’s recent Euro-lensed pic, “Femme Fatale.” His other producing credits include Roman Polanski’s “Pirates” and production services duties on a wide range of films from “Star Wars” to “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
“I certainly value my relationships with filmmakers and I know the nuts and bolts of film production in Europe,” said Ben Ammar, adding, “and I will be in the Palais at ‘The Pianist’ cheering for Roman Polanski!” Ben Ammar may be one of the few industryites to admit seeing the tightly held “Pianist” footage and he minced no words: “Based on what I saw, I would say it could be Roman’s masterpiece.”
When he’s not producing films and launching studios, he’s serving the Italian prime minister as advisor for the Middle East and North Africa and also orchestrating billion-dollar investments for international media figures from Rupert Murdoch to Leo Kirch. With rival outfit, the legendary Cinecitta Studios, hoping to continue the momentum from another Cannes offering lensed on its lot, “Gangs of New York,” as well as Brian Helgeland’s “Sin Eater,” Ben Ammar and his Roma exec team, president Raimondo Langostena and CEO Mauro Enrico Parretti, will need all the clout and expertise at their disposal to put Roma back at the center of the Euro production map.