First Italy-China Co-Prod Under New Treaty Is Cristiano Bortone’s ‘Coffee’

The Italy-China co-production treaty signed in 2014 has yielded its first feature film, drama “Coffee,” directed by Italy’s Cristiano Bortone and set in Italy, China and Belgium.

“Coffee has three tonalities of taste,” says Bortone whose previous features include “Red Like the Sky.” “There is bitter, sour, and fruity. Each of the three stories in the movie reflects one of these three tonalities.”

“It’s sort of like ‘Babel,’ ’ he added. “Three destinies linked to coffee intertwined in different parts of an increasingly globalised world.”

One tale is set in Trieste, the capital of coffee production in Italy and Europe; the other is set amid China’s increasingly consumer-driven and ecologically devastated society; the third is set in Belgium and is centered around racial tensions. They all intersect in the end.

Pic, which started shooting in Northern Italy in August, is being produced by Bertone’s own Orisa shingle with RAI Cinema, China’s Road Pictures, which is founded by former Mercedes China exec Gongming Cai, Shaghai-based China Blue, and Flemish production outfit Savage Film, the company behind Michael Roskam’s “Bullhead.” Warner Bros.-owned Eyeworks Belgium is a minority shareholder in Savage.

“Coffee” is also supported by Italy’s Business Location South Tyrol, the Italian film commission/fund in Italy’s Alpine Alto Adige region that was involved with Venice fest opener “Everest.” Officine Ubu will release in Italy.

The ensemble cast comprises Italian actors Ennio Fantastichini (pictured), Dario Aita, Miriam Dalmazio, Iranian multi-hyphenate Babak Karimi (“A Separation”), and Chinese thesps Xiaodong Guo (“Blind Massage,” “Summer Palace”), Qi Xi (“Mystery,” “Bad Sister”), Yuqi Zhang (“White Deer Plain”) and Tongsheng Han (“Inseparable”).

Pointing to the pic’s cross-cultural vision is the fact that the “Coffee” script is a collaborative effort between European and Chinese scribes and got the greenlight from Chinese censors.

“For the first time I had to confront myself with Chinese censors and all the remarks and indications made by the bureau of the Chinese co-production office,” Bertone said. “We are like guinea pigs.”

Bortone, an Italian USC and NYU grad with close connections to China, is the founder of Bridging the Dragon, the growing initiative which is forging closer ties between the European and Chinese film industries.

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