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Toronto: RAI Com Takes World Sales on New Gabriele Salvatores Film (EXCLUSIVE)

Oscar-winning director Gabriele Salvatores is set to shoot a road movie with the working title “Don’t Be Afraid If I Hug You,” which involves a father and his autistic son on the run. Pic stars Italian A-listers Claudio Santamaria (“They Call Me Jeeg”) and Valeria Golino.

RAI Com has boarded and will kick off world sales in Toronto. Salvatores’ new pic will start shooting this month.

Based on a widely translated bestseller by Italy’s Fulvio Ervas — which was inspired by a true story — “Don’t Be Afraid” is penned by Umberto Contarello (“The Great Beauty”). Santamaria will play a boozing lounge singer who accidentally intersects with his teen autistic son, whom he has never met before. He has an epiphany and decides to hit the road with him in an attempt to fight his son’s autism. They are chased by the boy’s mother (Golino) and her husband.

“They get to know each other along the trip,” Salvatores said in a statement describing the pic as a “picaresque road movie.” It starts in Italy’s East and winds up “in the deserted streets of the Balkans.” The protagonists “will reach a deep and important” place, “coming to terms with themselves” and “dealing with their own life and their role as parent and son,” the director noted.

Salvatores, who won the foreign-language film Oscar for “Mediterraneo” in 1991, more recently helmed teen superhero franchise “The Invisible Boy” parts 1 and 2.

“Don’t Be Afraid If I Hug You” is being produced by Marco Cohen, Fabrizio Donvito and Benedetto Habib of Indiana Production, in partnership with RAI Cinema and EDI. Indiana’s latest titles include Paolo Virzì’s road movie “The Leisure Seeker,” starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland.

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