Italy's Blue Star Movie has signed a joint venture agreement with the UK's Spice Factory to co-produce three to five pictures a year that will be shot in Italy in English with budgets ranging from $3m - $20m.

The first project to be made under the agreement which was signed by Blue Star's Pete Maggi and Spice's Michael Cowan and Jason Piette, is Five Moons Square (Piazza Delle Cinque Lune), a $10m feature which Italian director Renzo Martinelli (Vajont) is currently shooting in Rome.

The film stars Donald Sutherland and Italian star Giancarlo Giannini, and is being produced through Blue Spice Ltd., the new London-based outfit created by Maggi and Cowan, who are joint managing directors of the company.

Branded by Maggi as an "Italian JFK," Five Moons Square is inspired by the real-life kidnapping and assassination by extremist Red Brigade terrorists in 1978 of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro. Martinelli, who is also producing through his own company, Martinelli Film Company, will focus on an imaginary witness's view of the events that are still deeply ingrained in the collective Italian psyche.

Five Moons Square - the film's working title is the name of the street where Moro was kidnapped and his bodyguards murdered - was financed in the UK through tax equity fund and DZ Bank together with Italian public and private equity.

It is being sold internationally by Arclight Films, the new company launched this year in Cannes by Gary Hamilton. Italian distributor Istituto Luce will release the movie in Italy on May 9th 2003, to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Moro's assassination.

"Michael (Cowan) and I share the same vision that the future of European cinema is based in London and passes through the UK, Italy, Germany and Spain. It's not just about English or Italian movies, but about European movies," Maggi told

Maggi was one of the founders in 1986 of Eagle Pictures, Italy's dynamic production and distribution outfit. He left Eagle two years ago to found Blue Star Movie, which owns a 10% stake in Eagle. Together with Eagle's Giampaolo Sodano, Maggi is currently also developing Oracle, a picture adapted from Valerio Manfredi's thriller about a Greek girl who is tortured in front of her Italian boyfriend during the 1973 student riots in Athens.

In the meantime, Maggi has also set up a Blue Star outfit in the UK to develop the company's international strategy as well as future projects with Spice Factory, and he is currently in talks with several Italian producers to collaborate on future productions.