Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore and Medusa Film CEOGiampaolo Letta unveiled the first details of Tornatore's $30.7m (Euro 20m) film Baaria that has been tightly under wraps since the project's inceptiona year ago.

Producing partners for Baaria are Italy's Medusa Film and
Franco-Tunisian entrepreneur Tarak Ben Ammar's French based Quinta
Communications and his Tunis-based Empire Film.

Quinta will handle world sales of the film at the Cannes market next
week, while Medusa will distribute in Italy. The film is not expected
to be ready before the end of this year.

The initial glimpse into the film were given at a presser held on location in Tunis, Tunisia and focused primarily on the reproduction of Tornatore's home town at a new studio structure that will remain in place for other productions, Letta said.

Tornatore didn't reveal a synopsis of his film but rather indicatedthe direction that the project has taken.

The film's title is the Sicilian dialect pronunciation of the director's hometown of Bagheria, which is located just outside of Palermo in Sicily.

Tornatore said the project has been in his imagination for a long time
but he thought he would do it when he was much older.

Baaria has been called Tornatore's most personal project to date, but
it is more likely to become known as his most ambitious project, for
several reasons.

Production wise, the film has sparked the creation of a studio set-up
on a six-hectare space in Ben Arous, an industrial area outside of Tunis.

The film is being executive produced by Mario Cotone. Maurizio Sabatini, whose credits include Roberto Benigni's films, is artistic director.

The scale of the sets for Baaria is 'three times the size of sets crafted at Cinecitta for Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York,' Giampaolo Letta said.

Stylistically, Tornatore has likened Baaria to a 'kaleidoscope.' He said critics will probably use the term 'ensemble cast' for the picture and this is likely to be true.

The press notes handed out included only one bit of information: the names of the over one hundred actors, including Monica Bellucci, Luigi Lo Cascio, Raoul Bova and Lina Sastri whose roles are being qualified as cameos that 'come and go in the film's narrative structure,'Tornatore said.

But what is the film about'

Tornatore shied away from detailing the story line saying only 'now that the film is starting to show its face, it seems to be to be a comedy in the ironic vein. It's becoming fun and melancholy,' he said.

He did reveal the film would span three generations from the 1930s to
the 1970s and focus on Peppino and Mannina portrayed by Francesco
Scianna (an actor from Tornatore's hometown) as well as newcomer
Margareth Made.

Tornatore also cited politics as central to the picture in as far as he will represent a time when 'everyone was passionate for politics and they saw it as an instrument for good.'

The director also told ScreenDaily all of his films have autobiographical elements, but that Baaria should not be taken as a direct autobiography. For example the main character is not a representation of the director.

But, he said, the film would be 'more personal than Cinema Paradiso.'

Artistically, the film is the continuation the close relationship between Tornatore and celebrated composer Ennio Morricone, who is scoring the film.

Tornatore said the composer is creating a score 'much more complex than for that of The Unknown,' their last project together for which Tornatore was shortlisted for the 2007 Foreign-language Oscar.

Another ambitious element emerging during the presser is that the film
will be produced in two versions: one in his local home town dialect
for distribution in Sicily and abroad (with subtitles), as well as an
Italian language version interspersed with some dialect (as in Cinema
Paradiso, for which the director won the 1995 Foreign Film Oscar) that
will be distributed nationally.

As far as the use of cinemas (the set has three of the ten cinemas
that were part of his growing up) Tornatore says 'we'll see 'people
coming and going to the cinema with only one important scene shot
inside a cinema.'

Tornatore began as a film projectionist in his hometown at the age of ten.

'I took a step backward (from Cinema Paradiso) and we use cinema from the outside (for Baaria). Three sequences are shot inside the cinema and only one is important, a scene where Peppino brings his son to the cinema for the first time. That could be the autobiographical part,'
the director said.