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Libyan president funding film

'Years of Torment' details Italian occupation

Libyan prexy Moammar Gadhafi is bankrolling a new film about the Italian occupation of Libya to the tune of $50 million.

“Years of Torment,” or “Dhulm” in Arabic, will detail the three-decade Italian occupation of Libya from 1911-43 through firsthand accounts written by Libyans and international witnesses.

Pic will mark the feature film debut of Syrian helmer-producer Najdat Anzour, already famous across the Arab world for his hot-button Ramadan skeins, known as musalsalat in Arabic, which often deal with controversial subjects such as Islamic fundamentalism and the debate over the Danish cartoons that lampooned the prophet Muhammad. Producers have tapped Teuton d.p Rainer Klausmann (“Downfall”) to work on the pic, which will be in English.

Project will be announced today at a lavish Rome press confab — complete with all-expenses-paid invitations to journos from around the world. Unveiling event is said to have cost producers $400,000.

The Italian occupation of Libya saw tens of thousands of Libyans interned in concentration camps in the desert. Some historical studies have claimed that up to a quarter of Libya’s population died during the period.

“The film is being made in the spirit of reconciliation and dialogue and because we need to remind people about Libya’s history. President Gadhafi wants to do something for his country,” Anzour said. “This won’t be propaganda. The film will focus on the ordinary people. It will be like ‘Crash,’ where all these similarly different characters will find themselves connected by events.”

Gadhafi’s involvement in the production is a further sign of Libya’s return to the international fold after it voluntarily revealed and halted its nuclear program following years of sanctions.

Pic will be the country’s first feature since Moustapha Akkad’s 1981 “The Lion of the Desert,” which dealt with the same time period and boasted the unlikely sight of Anthony Quinn as Libyan resistance hero Omar Mukhtar. Italian authorities banned the film in 1982 after then-Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti labeled it damaging to the honor of the Italian army. Gadhafi reputedly bankrolled that pic as well.

“It’s important for people to know the extent of the oppression that took place,” said producer Ramzi Rassi. “The film will be testimony to that period. We owe it to present generations to know what happened so that we can avoid misrepresentations and misunderstandings.”

Despite his reputation for generating media storms, Anzour is keen to avoid drawing any comparisons with the situation in Iraq, focusing instead on what occurred in Libya. “We want to make something deep that affects people,” said Anzour. “The DVD will be full of extras and documentaries about the occupation.”

Pic is set to start lensing early next year.