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A wealth of hotly-anticipated pictures are currently being made in Italy: These include Cuore Sacro, a new picture by Turkish-Italian director Ferzan Ozpetek, whose last two films, Ignorant Fairies and Facing Windows have become local blockbusters. Produced by his regular partners, Tilde Corsi and screenwriter Gianni Romoli, Ozpetek says his next film will focus on the contrast between poverty and wealth in Naples.
Naples is also the setting for Giancarlo Siani, which marks the welcome return to social themes for Marco Risi, the director of critically acclaimed hits Mery Per Sempre and Ragazzi Fuori, which focused on youth delinquency in Palermo. Here Risi traces the story of an Italian journalist who was killed in 1985 by the Camorra - the Naples mafia - for denouncing the links between organised crime, politics and the construction industry.
Francesco Patierno, whose debut feature Pater Familias, won widespread acclaim at last year's Berlin Film Festival, is currently preparing another film set in Naples. Based on a novel by Giuseppe Ferrandino, Pericle Il Nero focuses on a young man who has never known life outside the Neapolitan mafia. Like Patierno's previous film, Pericle is produced by indie producer Umberto Massa and will star Ernesto Mahieux, who also featured in Matteo Garrone's critical hit The Embalmer.
Elsewhere, big-budget English-language pictures in the making include Lezioni Di Volo, a new feature by Francesca Archibugi (Tomorrow), featuring Sophie Marceau in a drama about two Italians who encounter a disillusioned French doctor in India; She, an $18m feature produced by Leo Pescarolo, loosely based on H. Rider Haggard's fantasy tale about an immortal woman who is inspired by immortal love; and The Lazarus Child, Eagle Pictures's long-awaited $30m feature based on Robert Mawson's bestseller, about a girl who falls into a coma after being hit by a bus. Currently shooting in London and Alberta, Canada, the picture stars Andy Garcia and Angela Bassett.
Meanwhile, two of Italy's internationally best-known directors are also lining up new features: on the heels of The Dreamers, Bernardo Bertolucci is currently hard at work on the long-gestating project Hell And Paradise. The drama, which is expected to shoot in Naples in 2004, will focus on a trip by Igor Stravinsky and his wife to Naples in 1951, where the Russian musician re-discovered the innovative music of Carlo de Gesualdo.
Finally, Giuseppe Tornatore is currently searching for locations to shoot Leningrad, an English-language film about the Nazi attack on Leningrad during World War II. The Oscar-winning director of Cinema Paradiso is known to have already approached Nicole Kidman to star in the film, which is expected to be ready in 2005.