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It’s curtains for Italo indie

Arcopinto shuttering his shingle

ROME — Pablofilm, Italy’s sole truly independent production/distribution stable, is shuttering because it can no longer compete against the media duopoly of pubcaster RAI and Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediasest.

Set up by prolific producer Gianluca Arcopinto in 1998, Pablo has shepherded a slew of low-budget pics often featured on the festival circuit, including first works by Matteo Garrone, Vincenzo Marra and Sardinian helmer Salvatore Mereu, whose “Three-Step Dance” went to Sundance in 2003.

The quintessentially offbeat shingle was a bastion against increasing blandification prompted, per Arcopinto, by the rise of TV mogul Berlusconi’s Medusa film arm and the RAI Cinema unit. Both mega-outfits sprawl from tube to theatrical distribution.

“You cannot make a movie in this country if you don’t have financing from the TV duopoly,” Arcopinto said during a goodbye party for Pablo. “And I am personally proud of the fact that I have never known a Mediaset exec. I think it’s immoral that half of Italian cinema is in the hands of the man who until recently was prime minister.”

Arcopinto, who will continue to work as a producer, is shepherding Mereu’s “Sonetaula,” a drama about a Sardinian outlaw, co-produced with Lucky Red.

In a confirmation of how tough it is for offbeat pics to make it into theaters, helmer Alex Infascelli’s self-produced psychodrama “H2Odio” this week became Italy’s first straight-to-DVD pic to be sold at newsstands, at an added cost, with national daily La Repubblica and weekly L’Espresso. The move is an experiment in alternative distribution.

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