Leading Italian book publisher Feltrinelli has started production on its first feature film, We Believed (Noi Credevamo), the story of political violence sparked by Italy's battle for unification in the 19th century. The film will be released in 2008.

Popular writer Giancarlo De Cataldo (Crime Novel) and director Mario Martone (L'odore del Sangue) are a reliable team for the bookseller's debut $6.5m (Euros 5m) feature.

Sicilian actor Luigi Lo Cascio is also on board after recent memorable performances in politically charged films like The Best of Youth (La Meglio Gioventu), One-hundred Steps (Cento Passi) and Good Morning, Night (Buongiorno, Notte).

An Eskimosa-Rai Co-production (with Swiss and French partners), Eskimosa will front 10% of the budget while $1.96m (Euros 1.5m) has been secured through Italy's culture funds, FUS (Fondo Unico Spettacolo). FUS has earmarked an additional $327,590 (Euros 250,000) for the film's distribution, Eskimosa producer Carlo Cresto-Dina told ScreenDaily.com.

Cresto-Dina also said the popular left-leaning publisher is on track with its expansion into the film world - which started with in-house distribution label Feltrinelli Real Cinema in 2004. That label distributes politically motivated films and documentaries in more than 1,000 Italian bookstores.

'Documentaries like Enron, The Corporation and Fahrenheit 9/11 are among 24 titles we have distributed under this label,' Cresto-Dina said. 'It is a new concept because we sell the films with the books, not in the DVD section.'

Cresto-Dina says sales reach an average of 20,000 per title: 'a lot for Italy,' he points out. Titles like Fahrenheit 9/11 have sold up to 70,000 units and inspired Feltrinelli to move into the independent film market with a second DVD label called La Nuvola.

Set up in 2006, it joins Eskimosa and Feltrinelli with Italian independent distributors including Lucky Red, Mikado and 01 with the intent to sell quality titles like Brokeback Mountain or Oscar submission Don't Tell (La Bestia del Cuore) in the book section.

'Following the success of Feltrinelli Real Cinema we realized there is space for other good films that interest people who normally visit a bookstore,' Cresto-Dina said.

This year, La Nuvola will distribute a Nanni Moretti documentary from 1990 entitled La Cosa (The Thing) in conjunction with the director's Rome-based Sacher production company.

La Nuvola will also release a set of short masterpieces by Vittorio De Seta, introduced by Martin Scorsese, in September 2007.