Two months after new management was put into place at Istituto Luce, the venerable state-owned Italian film distributor is returning to local and international film production. Its slate includes a new picture by Cannes regular Michael Haneke and vehicles for Andy Garcia and Al Pacino.

New chief executive Luciano Sovena announced yesterday that the company will spend Euros 8m on feature film production in 2003.

Luce is to co-produce Modigliani, a new feature about the famous artist starring Garcia, being put together by UK outfit Creative Partners International. The company will board the UK-based project with a 20% stake and will co-produce alongside Tilde Corsi's Rome outfit R&C Produzioni, the producer behind current Italian box office hit Facing Windows.

Istituto Luce will also co-produce Cachet, a new film by Austrian director Haneke starring Juliette Binoche. The film, which is scheduled to shoot in August in France, focuses on two childhood friends who end up having to resolve a problem together when they are adults.

Sovena is also in talks to co-produce an as yet-unnamed film to be shot in Italy with Al Pacino, as well as two other major international co-productions. Luce expects to hold Italian distribution rights to all the projects.

"Our objective is to focus on commercial projects that will make money back," said Sovena, explaining that the decision to co-produce major international films will also give Istituto Luce more leverage in the global market-place.

In terms of acquisitions, Luce has picked up local distribution rights to Corps a Corps with Emanuelle Seigner; Promised Life (La Vie Promise) with Isabelle Huppert; Antonietta De Lillo's Il Resto di Niente which stars Maria de Medeiros; and Ettore Scola's Gente di Roma (originally known as Giornalino di Roma);

Meanwhile, Sovena has signed a reciprocal distribution and co-production deal with the British Film Council, as well as a deal with Morocco.

Under the UK deal, Luce will board British projects as a co-producer. He will also distribute "difficult" British films. The Film Council has also agreed to co-produce and distribute Italian films.

"At the moment, the UK has replaced France as our best partner," Sovena said.

The reciprocal deal with Morocco, which encompasses production, distribution and facilities, will give financial incentives (such as free air tickets) to Italian crews who shoot in Morocco, and will enable Moroccan films to be screened in Italy and Italian films to screen in the North African country.

As part of its new drive, Luce president Andrea Piersanti said he is currently also in talks with new pay-TV platform Sky Italia to establish, together with Cinecitta and other Italian partners, a TV channel entirely dedicated to cinema, to be named Cinecitta Channel. Luce is equally in talks to launch a history channel, which could also air on Sky Italia.

As previously announced (Screendaily March 31, 2003), Istituto Luce is also re-focusing on its original role as Italy's leading maker of documentaries.