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DISTRIBUTION Italy

Italians coming up in 2006

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As 2005 starts to show a slight upturn as it comes to an end, with Harry Potter helping to put a bit of bounce in the box office - slightly down on last year but still faring better than other European countries - exhibitors are already starting to look ahead to 2006.

But first there's the festive season ahead, with Italys traditional bunch of Christmas comedies by Pieraccioni to Neri Parenti, with King Kong also boding well for box office takings. But as well as some international gems due out in 2006, Italy has its own fair share of interesting films coming up in the coming months, with Medusa Film, 01 Distribution and Filmauro paying particular attention to Italian productions.

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Medusa's 2006 catalogue has a range of Italian titles spanning from comedies to international thrillers, a road movie in 1940s Italy to an historical costume drama. This latter work is the eagerly awaited 'N' Napoleone directed by Paolo Virzì. It stars Daniel Auteuil as the emperor, along with Italys own Monica Bellucci, Elio Germano (Respiro [+see also:
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) and Valerio Mastandrea (L'Orizzonte degli eventi). 'N' is about the secret fascination of tyranny and paints an unusual portrait of Napoleon, whose nice side and humanity is brought out by the French actor. Germano plays a youthful idealist who dreams of killing the emperor and Monica Bellucci is as a woman of the people who marries a nobleman and becomes a baroness Shooting actually took place in Elba as well as on the Tuscan coast. The film is based on the book by Ernesto Ferrero and is produced by Italians Cattleya and Medusa Film together with the French company, Babe Productions.

Next year also sees the return of actor and director Sergio Rubini (L'Amore Ritorna [+see also:
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) with his new film La Terra (The Land) where he is both in front of and behind the camera. This drama/noir is the story of a Milanese university professor who goes back to Puglia in Southern Italy, and sees his three brothers divided by an age-old hatred. But a murder will turn the life of the village upside down. The film is produced by Domenico Procacci's Fandango in collaboration with Medusa. It stars Fabrizio Bentivoglio (Remember Me), Claudia Gerini (The Passion of the Christ ), Massimo Venturiello and Paolo Briguglia.

Another eagerly awaited film on Medusa's list is the new work by the director of The Consequences of Love, Paolo Sorrentino . It is called L'amico di familiglia (The Family Friend) and stars Giacomo Rizzo, Laura Chiatti and Fabrizio Bentivoglio. The story is based around the figure of a loan shark and the trailer shows Sorrentino once again teasing his audiences with an enigmatic, intriguing and almost disturbing illusion of what lies in store.

The new work by Roberto Andò (Strange Crime), called Viaggio Segreto, is a liberal adaptation of Josephine Hart's book 'The Reconstructionist'. It stars Alessio Boni (The Best of Youth [+see also:
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), Valeria Solarino (La Febbre [+see also:
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) and Emir Kusturica and is the story of a 40-year old man who has always lived in Rome but then goes to Sicily and discovers the necessity to re-construct what he has lost. The film is produced by Rodeo Drive in collaboration with Medusa and Babe Film.

Medusa will also be distributing the international thriller Il Mercante di Pietre (The Stone Merchant ) by Renzo Martinelli (Piazza delle cinque lune [+see also:
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) starring Harvey Keitel. The film is about a woman who is married to an Islam scholar. During a trip to Turkey she falls in love with a mysterious man, who is of western origins but raised and educated in the heart of Islam.

In a lighter vein, Baciami Piccina directed by Roberto Cimpanelli is a comedy road-movie through 1940s Italy. The story sees a small-time crook (played by Vincenzo Salemme ) being escorted by a brigadier (Neri Marcorè) across Italy to answer charges in another part of the country. This 3m euro budget film also stars Elena Russo and is produced by Marco Poccioni and Marco Valsania for Rodeo Drive. It will be released by Medusa in February 2006.

Staying with the comedy and next year sees the return of the soccer fan played by Diego Abatantuono in the sequel Eccezzziunale veramente 2 directed by Carlo Vanzina . This comedy also stars Sabrina Ferilli and Carlo Buccirosso. It is produced by Media One Entertainment and will be released by 01 Distribution.

Finally in Italy, Christmas wouldnt be Christmas without.... Massimo Boldi and Christian De Sica and their particular brand of comedy in the by-now traditional Italian Xmas comedy romp. This year's fare offered by Neri Parenti is called Natale in Miami (Christmas in Miami ), and is once again produced by Aurelio De Laurentiis for Filmauro, which is also distributing (from December 16, 2005). However, there is a touch of nostalgia to this picture, as it is the last starring the comedy couple, as Massimo Boldi breaks away to try his hand at other new challenges after an on-screen partnership lasting more than 20 films. So, will America's Magic City manage to weave its spell on the Italian box office?

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