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Bellocchio's Dormant Beauty stirs political controversy in Italy

A mini-squall has hit the Italian film industry over the controversial decision to cut the entire 2012 funding of the Friuli Venezia Giulia Film Commission.

Local producers are claiming this decision has been taken on political and ideological grounds.

The cuts, some believe, are targeted squarely at Marco Bellocchio’s new feature Dormant Beauty, starring Isabelle Huppert. The film (sold by Celluloid Dreams) is based on the true story of Eluana Englaro, a woman whose death in 2009 provoked an anguished debate about euthanasia in Italy.

Producers Cattleya successfully applied to Friuli Venezia Giulia Film Commission for €150.000 ($188,000). They say that right-wing politicians in Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia region where the film was shot, are trying to prevent Cattleya from receiving this money by slashing the Commission’s entire 2012 budget.

Cattleya boss Riccardo Tozzi has told ScreenDaily that the Friuli Commission system had previously been transparent and straightforward to use. “It has been working very well for 10 years.” However, Tozzi said, the subject matter of Dormant Beauty is considered “very disturbing in Italy…from the beginning, the right wing in Friuli tried to prevent the movie being done in the area.”

Tozzi added that the critics of Dormant Beauty had “no idea what the movie is about…they just imagine it is a movie strongly against the Catholic Church, which is not the case.” He described Dormant Beauty “as a very spiritual movie…about life and death, three stories intertwined. ” He suggested that the film was “more complex and deep and movie” than its reputation as “a movie about euthanasia with an ideological position” would suggest.

It’s not only Bellocchio whose film is affected by the cuts in Friuli funding. Giuseppe Tornatore’s new English-language film The Best Offer (supported by Warner Bros and starring Geoffrey Rush) has also been affected.

The Commission money makes up only a small amount of the $5.5 million budget for Dormant Beauty, which is nearing completion. Nonetheless, producers are outraged at what they see as political meddling in the film industry.

Federico Poilucci, the Head of Friuli Venezia Giulia Film Commission, also stated that he felt the decision to cut the Commission Funding was political. “They don’t want to finance the Marco Bellocchio film so they are trying to pass it as ‘we don’t finance any film’ which is even worse.”

Federica Seganti, Councillor for Productive Activities of the Regione Autonoma Friuli Venezia Giulia, did not respond to requests from Screen for clarification as to the reasons for cutting the Fund.

Dormant Beauty is in post-production and is likely to surface at an autumn festival. The Italian distributor is RAI Cinema.

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