Winchester Films has picked up international rights to New Best Friend, a college-age drama produced by Frank Mancuso Jr on which Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group has acquired domestic and Latin American rights.

The film was formerly known as Mary Jane's Last Dance and was originally set domestically at MGM, but became available when Chris McGurk took over at the studio from former studio boss Frank Mancuso Sr.

The $8m movie features a hot ensemble cast led by Dominique Swain, Taye Diggs, Mia Kirshner, Meredith Monroe, Oliver Hudson and Scott Bairstow. Director is Zoe Clarke-Williams. Set at an exclusive university, it tells the story of a police investigation into the lifestyle of four girls when one of them falls into a coma.

Winchester said that Columbia TriStar is considering buying other territories on New Best Friend. Mancuso Jr's credits include Stigmata, Ronin and Species.
Mike Goodridge

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government has blocked a deal to sell a stake of public broadcaster RAI to the US's Crown Castle International.

The deal, which involved the sale of Rai's transmission infrastructure Raiway, was widely thought to be a test of how Berlusconi would handle potential conflicts between his multi-million dollar media empire - which includes leading private broadcaster Mediaset and film company Medusa Film - and his job as prime minister.

Critics of the Berlusconi government charge that a sale to Crown Castle would have turned the government-controlled Rai into a newly competitive force to be reckoned with in the television market, and would potentially damage competitor Mediaset's strong-hold on the market.

Communications Minister Maurizio Gasparri insists that Crown Castle's offer of $380 million for 49% of RaiWay, which manages 2,300 broadcast transmission sites, was too low. Berlusconi, who is a firm advocate of privatisation, has been dogged by conflict-of-interest issues since he entered politics around 10 years ago. When he was elected in May, he promised to resolve the issue within his first 100 days of government. He failed to do so, but has proposed naming an independent commission of 'three wise men' to monitor potential conflicts.
Melanie Rodier

Mercure Distribution, the French sales outfit, has sold two of its titles into the UK market. Optimum has bagged Cannes competition title La Chambre Des Officiers, while Gala has grabbed Gregoire Moulin Contre l'Humanite.

Mercure Distribution's Jacques Le Glou, who handles foreign sales duties on both titles, has also made the first sale on the latest addition to his line-up, Les Ames Calines (Sweet Jacques) to Switzerland. Gregoire Moulin Contre l'Humanite - an offbeat, first effort by actor Artus de Penguern who also plays the title role - is a wacky comedy about a born loser who moves to Paris. Thomas Bardinet's Sweet Jacques, produced by distributor Michel Saint Jean of Diaphana, whose credits include hits The Dreamlife Of Angels and Harry, He's Here to Help. Sweet Jacques deals with the misadventures of forty year-old artist who is gearing up to seduce a pretty young girl when all hell breaks lose.
Francoise Meaux Saint Marc

Lucky Red, the leading Rome indie distributor, has boarded Fernando Leon's $4 million drama Mondays In The Sun (Los Lunes Al Sol), which stars Oscar nominee Javier Bardem and is produced by Spain's renowned Elias Querejeta.

Mondays In The Sun, about a group of unemployed friends who meet up in a bar every Monday, is co-written by Leon and Ignacio del Moral and is currently shooting in Vigo, in northern Spain. Leon, who is considered one of Spain's most talented young screenwriters, has directed two previous pictures - Familia (1996) and the award-winning Barrio (1998). Both were produced by Querejeta.

Meanwhile, through his new production company, Eyescreen, Lucky Red's Andrea Occhipinti is also a co-producer on Peter Mullan's Irish drama Magdalene and No News From God, starring Penelope Cruz.

Upcoming Eyescreen projects also include Incantesimo Napoletano, an Italian comedy co-produced with Axelotil and Classic Film, about a Neapolitan couple whose baby daughter is born speaking perfect Milanese.
Melanie Rodier

Atlas International has struck an output deal with Constantin, Bernd Eichinger's powerhouse German production and distribution combo.

The deal gives Atlas world sales duties to all of Constantin's German-produced titles (except where co-producers are also sellers and have pre-emptive rights). The Pact kicks off with More Ants In The Pants, a sequel to the Atlas-handled 1999 comedy hit Ants In The Pants.

More Ants is to be directed by Granz Henman, the screenwriter of the original picture, who is now in growing demand as a director. Henman, who directed children's hit Der Eisbaer, is also scheduled to direct Knallharte Jungs, the sequel to Harte Jungs, which he wrote. Ants was previously sold to 80 territories and notched over 1.7 million spectators in Germany.

At Mifed, Atlas is also selling its own production, The Red Phone, and recent pick-up Crime Of Passion, a Singaporean drama directed by John D Lamont.
Patrick Frater

Gianluca Arcopinto's Pablo, the Rome indie producer and distributor, has picked up Italian distribution rights to Spanish hit The Pellet (El Bola), the winner of four Goyas, which is sold worldwide by Rome's Intramovies.

Arcopinto, a well-known figure on the Italian indie film scene, has also recently completed production on three films that have won slots in next month's Turin film festival, Italy's pre-eminent cutting-edge event.

Screening in competition is Carla Spadoni's Giravolte, a film starring Robert de Niro's daughter Drina, which follows three parallel stories that are set in Rome. Surrrealist thriller Delitto Sul Po (Crime On The Po River), which is directed by Andrea Rezza and Flavia Mastrella, will screen out-of-competition while Vincenzo Marra's feature documentary, Strani Alla Massa, about three die-hard Naples football club fans, will be among a slew of titles vying for a £10,000 (L.30,000,000) prize in the event's strong documentary section.
Melanie Rodier

France's Celluloid Dreams has presold Japanese rights to two of its titles Francois Ozon's latest opus Huit Femmes (Eight Women), to Gaga, and Marlene Dietrich documentary Marlene, Her Own Song, to an as yet undisclosed distributor.

Ozon's film features the 'creme de la creme' of French leading ladies - including Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Beart, Virginie Ledoyen and Fanny Ardant. Currently in post-production, it has been a hot seller for Celluloid. It has also been bought by Dendy for Australia - a rare occurrence, since the only foreign language title Dendy has ever pre-bought is Amelie.

Celluloid has also presold Eight Women into nine other territoires: Italy (Bim), Spain (Alta Films), Taiwan (CMPC), Benelux (Cinemien), Switzerland (Filmcooperative) Canada (Seville), Brazil (Imovision), Austria (Polyfilm) and Greece (Rosebud).

Marlene, a recent addition to Celluloid's line-up, is a US feature-length documentary directed by Marlene Dietrich's New York-born grandson David Riva and narrated by Jamie Lee Cu