Five Italian films have found distribution in Brazil at the International Rio De Janeiro Film Festival (Sep 25 - Oct 9) after Italy became the first country to join an experimental international scheme aimed at encouraging the distribution of independent films across the world.

The scheme, which operates under the banner of the International Institute for Cinema and Audiovisual (IICA), sees countries provide matching subsidy and incentives to each other to support distribution of their films in the country of co-operation.

Funds are provided by the country's government or ruling legislative, and nominated international film festivals agree to showcase the country's pictures.

The Rio De Janeiro Film Festival is the first festival to join the scheme, which aims particularly to create collaborations between EU countries and the Latin American market.

The IICA, which has yet to receive full backing from the EU, also says it wants to "reverse the US film industry's sustained hold" on the world market.

"Our aim is to even out the playing field," said IICA head Sandro Silvestri. "You have to think that in the present state of play, US film-makers gross an average of $15 million for every film they make each year; in the rest of the world that figure is $600,000. We're working towards seeing that figure increase two-fold," explained Silvestri.

Twenty Italian features have been screened at the Festival do Rio under the IICA scheme through a deal signed by Roberto Stablile of Anica, Italy's

national entertainment body. According to Silvestri, five have already found Brazilian distributors.

These are: Marco Bellocchio's Venice hit Buongiorno, Notte; Marco Tullio Giordana's critically-acclaimed drama, The Best of Youth; Cristina Comencini's family drama The Best Day of My Life; hot director Gabriele Muccino's second feature, 1999's Come Te Nessuno Mai, and Pupi Avati's Cannes drama, The Heart Elsewhere.

Under the terms of the scheme, Brazilian distributors of these films will now receive three free subtitled prints.

While presently concentrating on gaining the EU's full backing for the scheme, Silvestri says the IICA plans to roll out the project to the rest of the word within the next two years. "We're looking at a regeneration of independent cinema by taking it away from its home country and enabling it to be seen," Silvestri said.