In its first major Asian sale of the market, Italian outfit Rai Trade has closed a deal on Pupi Avati's new feature Giovanna's Father with Japan's Alcine. The film premiered in official selection in Venice earlier this autumn, picking up the Coppa Volpi for Best Actor for Silvio Orlando. Deals had previously closed with France (Paradise), Benelux (Cinemein), and Switzerland (MFD).

The Japanese deal at AFM comes as broadcaster Rai renews its commitment to film. With Italian cinema buoyant after the successes of Il Divo and Gomorrah, Rai is seeking to capitalize on buyers' new-found appetite for Italian fare. 'We are back in force in theatrical distribution,' commented Sesto Cifola, Rai Trade's head Of cinema and TV sales. 'I strongly believe there is a renaissance of Italian cinema worldwide. There are projects that can travel. That's why we are investing again strongly in theatrical with Rai Trade and with Rai Cinema, the company in charge of production.'

Here in Santa Monica, as its beefs up its slate, Rai has also announced it will handle sales on Fausto Brizzi's latgest film, Ex, an Italian-French co-production. Brizzi enjoyed considerable box-office success with his previous feature, Night Before The Exams, which grossed over 13.5 million Euros. The new film is a romantic comedy set in Rome, Paris and New Zealand about old love affairs and the part ex-lovers play in new relationships. It's slated for a Valentine's Day release in Italy and will be presented to buyers at the Berlinale.

At the AFM, Rai is also screening Matteo Rovere's A Game For Girls, a dramatic thriller about spoilt young rich girls which premiered recently at the Rome Film Festival.