Netflix Unveils Third Italian Original, 17th Century Witchcraft Series ‘Luna Nera’

Netflix and production company Fandango on Tuesday unveiled the streamer’s third Italian original “Luna Nera” (Black Moon), a fantasy rooted in historical reality about a group of women accused of witchery in 17th century Italy.

The innovative show will drop on January 31 in the roughly 190 territories where Netflix operates.

Shot in Rome’s revamped Cinecittà Studios and in the nearby countryside the witchcraft series marks the first foray into the fantasy genre for an Italian skein made for the global market. It’s also entirely written and directed by women, another first for Italy.

Set in the Roman countryside during the dark century known for the Inquisition and religious fanaticism, as well as the so-called scientific revolution, “Luna Nera” is based on a series of books that draw from research into real Italian 17th century witch hunts, trials, and burnings written by Tiziana Triana, who also worked on the screenplays.

At the core of the first six-episode installment of “Luna Nera” is a 16-year-old midwife named Ade who is accused of witchcraft after the death of a newborn. She escapes to the woods and finds refuge in a family of “witches.” But is tormented by the fact that she’s in love with the young son of the head of the witch-hunters clan who of course are mortal enemies of her newfound family.

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Felipe Tewes, Netflix’s director of international originals for Europe and Africa, speaking to the press praised the show for its “creativity and risk-taking” and for “truly using fantasy to take a very dark period of history and turn it into a story of finding your own power.”

Fandango chief Domenico Procacci noted that making a high-end Italian fantasy show is a “big challenge” and could easily have been met with skepticism. He thanked Netflix’s Tewes and also the streamer’s director of original series for Italy Nicole Norwood, “not just for their trust” but for their tendency to back the boldest choices such as “the freedom” to use a cast of largely unknown talents.

It will be interesting to see if “Luna Nera” flies. If so, it could help open up a new strand in Italian scripted storytelling.

“Luna Nera” was helmed by a trio of Italian women: Francesca Comencini (“Gomorra”), who led the way in terms of shaping the show;  Susanna Nicchiarelli (“Nico, 1988”) and Paola Randi (“Little Tito and the Aliens”).

Comencini at the presser pointed out the significance of having witches as protagonists.

“The witches are back!,” she said, noting that this is “an image that feminism picked up on during the 70s.”

Elaborating on what witches mean to her she called them “a universal figure that periodically comes back in fashion, because they represent this great utopia,” she said.

“They are a way for men and women to be together in the world; to work and live together…in a way that is different. A way for men to escape from the temptation to dominate, and for women [to escape] from the temptation to submit,” Comencini passionately pointed out.

Nicchiarelli called the show both “smart and fun” which, she noted, “is something rare.”

Also, she added, “We had fun with the magic.”

Other new Netflix Italy originals currently in various stages include: “Curon” a supernatural drama set in a village submerged by water in the province of Bolzano; “Summertime” a contemporary romancer based on a novel by popular local teen literature author Federico Moccia; “Zero,” a show combining a superhero narrative with the lives of first-generation African immigrants in Italy; and “Fedelta,” a relationships drama series based on a local bestseller by author Marco Missiroli.

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