Roberto Benigni has unveiledin Rome his widely anticipated Baghdad-set comedy, The Tiger and The Snow,which opens in Italy on October 14 on a huge 800 screens.
The film stars two-timeAcademy Award-winner Benigni as a poet desperately trying to woo back the womanof his dreams. He suddenly finds himself with her in Iraq in midst of the war,and is ready to do anything in and above his power to help her out.
The Tiger and The Snow also features Jean Reno as an Iraqi poet, Emilia Fox,and Nicoletta Braschi, as well as a special appearance by Tom Waits, whocomposed a song for soundtrack.
The Euros 30m film, whichshot in Italy and Tunisia, was entirely financed by Benigni and Braschi'sproduction company, Melampo Cinematografica.
The Tiger and The Snow garnered a good - if not overwhelming - reactionfrom Italian critics at its Rome press screening, which ended with a round ofapplause.
Benigni has tended to dividecritics throughout his career - even global hit Life is Beautifulgarnered a mixed reaction from its early press screenings.
However, critical reactionto the Tiger and The Snow was far more positive than for Benigni's lastdirectorial effort, Pinocchio, which was a blockbuster in Italy butflopped elsewhere.
The Tiger and The Snow, which features several scenes of gunfire andbombings in and around Baghdad, is much closer in genre to Benigni's Holocaustcomedy Life is Beautiful than the fairy-tale Pinocchio.
At a press conference inRome several local journalists suggested that in his latest film, Benigni hadshied away from taking a stand either for or against the war.
Benigni disagreed. He saidthat the anti-war sentiment in his film is "very, very strong."
"It's not anideological film," the Tuscan comic said. "Many films that are madeabout the war have a documentary feel to them," he said. "But thisfilm is a love story that goes straight to the heart. It's ferocious. Everyonein the film is fighting his own war. It's very powerful."
"Comedy is about havingthe courage to touch on profound themes," he added.
Worldwide sales, excludingItaly and the US, are being handled by Focus Features.
In Italy, the film will bereleased through 01 Distribution and Pathe will release the film in France inDecember.
01 Distribution is widelyexpected to have a huge hit in its hands, with Benigni, who is massivelypopular in Italy, ranking as one of the country's top-grossing directors.