Bavaria Films is Euro crossing guard

Company sets co-productions with key players in Italy and Russia, among others

Bavaria Film, a longtime mainstay of German film and TV production, is looking increasingly beyond the country’s borders as it seeks to broaden operations and ramp up international productions.

The group has a slew of films in the works, including Ian Fitzgibbon’s English-language “Superhero,” Edoardo De Angelis’ Italian comedy “Mozzarella Stories” and Chernobyl drama “Innocent Saturday,” which shot earlier this year in Ukraine.

Bavaria had for decades focused primarily on television productions, but co-topper Matthias Esche has been eager to increase feature film production at the group since joining the company in 2006.

To that end, he has looked to expand the group’s operations in Germany and abroad by partnering with established international players.

Bavaria has in recent years begun to refocus on feature films, via both domestic and international projects.

A vast and multifaceted group, Bavaria has a number of production divisions that are developing and producing feature films, including Bavaria Pictures, run by Jan Kaiser and deputy managing director Philipp Kreuzer, who also oversees the Rome-based Bavaria Media Italia. Established five years ago, BMI evolved from a Bavaria Film Intl. sales office in Rome. Kreuzer, who is fluent in Italian, took over the company two years ago with the aim of increasing local production in Italy.

“We can be a bridge into the Italian market and at the same time a bridge from Italy into Germany,” Kreuzer says.

“Mozzarella Stories” is BMI’s first Italian feature film developed and produced as a majority producer.

A black comedy, the pic centers on a local family-run mozzarella factory that sees itself threatened by the arrival of ambitious Chinese cheese makers. De Angelis’ feature film debut, which shot in southern Italy this summer, stars Luisa Ranieri, Massimiliano Gallo and Aida Turturro of “Sopranos” fame.

While a first for BMI, “Mozzarella Stories” is not the group’s first Italian project.

Bavaria Pictures co-produced Saverio Costanzo’s recent Venice screener “The Solitude of Prime Numbers,” teaming with Rome-based Offside and Les Films des Tournelles in Paris. Based on the Italian bestseller by Paolo Giordano, the drama revolves around the awkward relationship between two emotionally scarred young people. Part of the film shot in Germany, and Bavaria was able to bring regional funding to the project.

Bavaria Pictures also is looking for international co-productions as a production and financing partner. “We are a production unit that actively gets involved in development and production responsibilities,” Kreuzer says.

Bavaria Pictures is partnering with Dublin-based Grand Pictures on Fitzgibbon’s “Superhero,” based on Anthony McCarten’s novel “Death of a Superhero,” about a 15-year-old boy who seeks to escape from a life-threatening illness in a comicbook fantasy world. Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie Sangster star.

On writer-director Alexander Mindadze’s “Innocent Sunday,” about the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant catastrophe, Bavaria Pictures is teaming up with co-production partners from Russia and the Ukraine for the first time.

“Innocent Saturday” began shooting this summer in the Ukrainian city of Sverdlovsk. The pic centers on a love story set against the worst nuclear accident in history, after an explosion in one of the plant’s reactors sent a plume of radioactive fallout over much of Europe.

There are also teen vampires on the horizon. Bavaria is developing an ambitious English-language franchise, with Berlin-based Egoli Tossell and Holland’s Lemming Film, based on Ulrike Schweikert’s novel “The Heirs of the Night — Nosferas,” the first in a series about Europeans who attend a vampire academy.

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