EaglePictures has acquired Italian rights to Mel Gibson's upcoming film, Apocalypto, marking one of Icon's firstmajor international deals on the picture.

Apocalypto - a Greek term meaning "anunveiling" or "new beginning" -is set 3,000 years ago in Central America before its conquest byEuropeans.

Thefilm, which Gibson is directing, producing and financing, will be spoken inMayan dialect, although like his last film, ThePassion of Christ, which he shot in Aramaic, it is expected to have Englishsubtitles.

Shootingon Apocalypto began on November 14 inthe Mexican state of Veracruz and is expected to continue until late March orearly April. The film will shoot for three months in the ruin-inspired citythat Gibson has built outside Veracruz and for two months in the jungle.

Gibson,who is not acting in the film, has said that Apocalypto will focus on the life of a Mayan man, touching on"civilisations and what undermines them". The ancient Mayan cultureexisted in southern Mexico and parts of Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and ElSalvador.

Thefilm's cast is expected to feature largely unknown actors from Mexico City aswell as indigenous Mayan-speakers from the region of Yucatan and U.S. NativeAmericans.

Disneyhas U.S. distribution rights to the film, and is scheduled to release it nextsummer. Eagle is expected to release the movie in Italy next autumn.

Eagle,which is headed by Stefano and Ciro Dammicco and has offices in Rome and Milan,also distributed The Passion of theChrist, which was shot entirely in Italy.

The Passion earned almost $23.6 (Euros 20m) at theItalian box office.