FCC slate funds LaPaglia homecoming


SYDNEY -- Anthony LaPaglia has signed on to star in the new Australian political thriller "Balibo," marking his first starring role in an Australian feature since his 2001 breakout hit "Lantana."

Written by Australian playwright David Williamson and Robert Connolly -- who also will direct -- "Balibo" is one of several projects the Australian Film Finance Corp. earmarked for funding Thursday.

"Balibo," which deals with events surrounding the shooting of five Australian journalists during Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975, is one of four new features, each with an international storyline, to benefit from the FCC's latest round of funding.

John Maynard will produce through his and Connolly's Arenafilm shingle. Footprint Films will distribute "Balibo" in Australia while Content Films International is handling international sales.

The FFC also announced it will invest in Bruce Beresford's previously announced big-budget epic, "Mao's Last Dancer," which Hopscotch and Roadshow Films will distribute locally, with Celluloid Films as international sales agent.

Also on the FFC slate is documentary feature "Salute," the story of Australian athlete Peter Norman, and his role in a defining, symbolic moment of the American civil rights movement -- the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics.

Written, directed and co-produced by Norman's nephew Matt, "Salute" documents Norman's support for his fellow athletes and the consequences he faced back in Australia, where he was met with hostility and criticism. David Redman also is producing.

The final FFC-picked feature, "My Year Without Sex," is the new film from the team behind the AFI-award winning "Look Both Ways," writer-director Sarah Watt and producer Bridget Ikin. It's billed as a romantic and slightly dark comedy exploring religion, sport, consumerism and self-improvement.

Aside from the four features, the FFC said another four will be funded once certain conditions have been met. They include Andrew Lancaster's "Accidents Happen," Kim Farrant's "Strangerland," Peter Duncan's "Miracle at Virgin's End" and Daniel Nettheim's "The Hunter."