Italy to Welcome Russian Co-Production Pitches Under New Development Fund

Cooperative opportunities -- hampered by tough market and political conditions but pushed forward with perseverance -- will pay off, say producers and officials from both countries.

TRIESTE, ITALY -- Russian producers were told Wednesday they could soon pitch co-production projects to Italy's new feature film development fund.

The fund, established by Italy's culture ministry last year to help develop international movies, had proved such a success with key production partners including France and South America, that officials were keen to widen its scope.

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"We've had positive feedback on the promotion of Italian talent; it's a win-win situation," said Chiara Fortuna, head of international relations within the cinema division of the Italian cultural ministry. Her remarks came at a meeting of top Russian and Italian producers and officials at the When East Meets West sidebar of the 25th edition of the Trieste Film Festival. The experts were looking at ways to increase opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation between the film industries of the countries.

In 2012, the last year for which figures are available, the ministry support 37 co-production projects, 20 of them with France as a key partner. A new fund dedicated to French-Italian co-productions recently closed a call for submissions and announced support for 13 projects, seven Italian-lead and six French.

Fortuna later told The Hollywood Reporter that details were yet to be finalized, but the fund should specifically earmark around 40,000 Euros ($55,000) a year for two Russian-Italian projects annually.

Relations between Italy and Russian have been cool over the past year after a shift in policy in Moscow away from international cooperation.

The failure of a Russian-Italian co-development fund, announced in January 2013, just before the closure of the international department of the Russian Cinema Fund, did not help. Like similar ones in France and Germany, the fund had not received official support from the Russian cultural ministry in the past year.

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Leonid Demchenko, culture ministry official responsible for co-productions, stressed that producers from the two countries could continue to work using the provisions of existing Russian-Italian treaties and -- where at least three countries were involved -- the European film convention.

"Since 2010 there have been five co-production projects between our countries, and we are also active with other European countries," said Demchenko, who is also Russia's representative on the board of Eurimages, which has boosted co-production since Russia joined in 2011. "We believe we have more potential in this field."

Elisabetta Bruscolini, producer of the co-production, Elementary Love, a family story set in the Italian Dolomites and Russia that features a cast of six children aged around 11, said the key thing was to find a "solid, trustworthy partner in Russia" to work with. The film, which won support from the Russian Cinema Fund before its international department was shuttered, opens in cinemas across Italy on Feb. 14.

Guido Pugnetti, an acquisitions executive with RaiCinema, the movie division of Italian state television Rai, said strong, moving stories -- whether they involved cross-cultural themes or not -- could find a place on Italian movie and television screens, although he conceded that Hollywood and local fare dominated the domestic market.