The European Investment Bank has made one of its first concrete investments in feature film, bankrolling three Italian pictures through the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro's Euros 100m credit line.

The Italian films that benefited from the EIB loans are Piergiorgio Gay's La Forza Del Passato, which screened at this year's Venice Film Festival; Enzo D'Alo's upcoming animation feature, La Cantata Dei Pastori, and Profession Of Arms director Ermanno Olmi's next picture, Cantando Dietro I Paraventi.

All three movies are produced by local outfits Albachiara and/or Cinemaundici, which both belong wholly or in part to arthouse distributor Mikado Film.

Cantando Dietro I Paraventi, a historical drama based on a Jose Luis Borges tale, received Euros 3m. Set at the end of the 17th century along the coast of China, the film tells the story of the widow of a pirate. Co-produced by Cinemaundici, Rai Cinema and Lakeshore Entertainment, the Euros 9m Olmi feature is one of the few Italian pictures to have ever been boarded by a US co-producer at pre-production state. Lakeshore is also handling international sales.

Albachiara's La Forza Del Passato, a drama starring Bruno Ganz, received Euros 628,000 while its animation feature La Cantata Dei Pastori, received Euros 3m. Director Enzo d'Alo' is responsible for Italy's biggest ever local animation picture, La Gabianella E Il Gatto, which in 1998 earned a massive Euros 10m at the box office.

The EIB loans represent a further boost for Mikado, an outfit which has been able to flex its financial muscle since receiving a major cash injection earlier this year from new multimedia shareholder De Agostini.

The 4-year EIB loans can cover up to 50% of an individual film's total budget, and have a interest rate which is lower than the market rate.

EIB loans are available from a minimum of Euros 40,000 to a maximum of Euros 12.5m.