Bavaria Media, the international production and rights arm of Germany's Bavaria Film, has established a new operation in Rome to spearhead European co-productions and increase the visibility of Italian product abroad.

The Rome outfit, which represents the mini-major's first venture outside a German-speaking territory, will aim to develop and co-produce four to five Italian and European feature films a year in addition to television movies.

Giuseppe Proietti, who was previously at Mediaset, has been appointed managing director of the Rome operation.

"We want to further develop the long-existing relationship which the Bavaria Group enjoys with Italy, and increase the awareness of Italian talent abroad," Bavaria Film's Thilo Kleine and Proietti said.

But Kleine also underlined his desire for Bavaria's Rome office to foster European cinematic collaboration.

"We hope that national markets can reinforce pan-European relationships, and not just foster a one-way relationship with the US," Kleine said. "With the advent of the euro in 2002, we'll have to work with new European economic and cultural bridges. We want to build up something besides business - and that's the idea behind this office."

Last November, Bavaria Media and Italy's Rai Cinema formed a long-term alliance to develop and co-produce three TV films or mini-series per year until 2003, with development costs shared equally by both partners. Both companies have also agreed to co-produce and distribute feature films in their respective territories.

Kleine said Bavaria Media is now also talking to other partners, including Italian producer-distributor Mikado, about future theatrical co-productions.

Bavaria Media is currently involved in Mari Del Sud, an Italian remake of a German comedy produced by Italy's Cattleya. Bavaria is also handling sales in non-English speaking territories for Goran Paskaljevic's How Harry Became A Tree, which is produced by Cattleya, Ireland's Paradox Pictures, the UK's Film & General and France's Mact. Cattleya is handling sales in the English-speaking world.

In addition, Bavaria is financing and co-producing the Taviani brothers' much-anticipated Resurrection, a film in two parts adapted from the Tolstoy novel, which is set up as a co-production with Raifiction and France Television. Rai Trade is handling international sales.