While the Italian filmindustry continues to grapple with a two-year financial crisis, the country'susual suspects are lining up ambitious new pictures.

These include RenzoMartinelli, director of local special effects-heavy picture Vajont, whois currently shooting a film about terrorism entitled Il Mercante di Pietre(literally, The Precious Stones Merchant). The film is about a Christianwho uses his cover as a merchant of precious stones travelling between Turkeyand Afghanistan to hide his links with an Al Qaeda cell. It stars Harvey Keiteland F. Murray Abraham.

Bruce Beresford is expectedto directed Io Uccido, the thriller written by indie Italianwriter-director Davide Ferrario. Based on Giorgio Faletti's best-seller about aserial killer in Montecarlo, the picture sees the local police forcecollaborate with the FBI in an attempt to catch him. Aurelio De Laurentiis'sRome company Filmauro is producing.

Kim Rossi Stuart, thepopular former child actor who recently starred in Gianni Amelio's The HouseKeys, is currently making his directorial debut with "Anche Libero VaBene," a drama starring Barbora Bobulova (The Spectator) backed byRai Cinema.

Paolo Virzi, thewriter-director behind the comedies Caterina Goes To the Big City and MyName is Tanino, is lining up an $8m picture about Napoleon. Monica Bellucciand Daniel Auteuil head the cast of the film, N, which is based onErnesto Ferrero's novel about Napoleon's exile on the island of Elba, where helived for 300 days, and a librarian who closely observes his foibles.

Meanwhile, Italian comedyheavyweights are readying their new Christmas blockbusters, which despite thecountry's current economic crisis, should provide the industry with a highlylucrative holiday season.

This year's festive filmsinclude Tuscan comic Leonardo Pieraccioni's Ti Amo In Tutte Le Lingue delMondo (literally, I Love You in Every One of the World's Languages),about a gym teacher and a 16-year-old pupil falls desperately in love with him.The picture stars Pieraccioni alongside comics Massimo Ceccherini and GiorgioPanariello.

Aurelio De Laurentiis islining up the latest in his 20-year-old series of Christmas chart toppers. Thefilm, called Natale A Miami (Christmas in Miami) is currently shootingin Florida and stars comic duo Christian De Sica and Massimo Boldi.

Next season will also markthe return of record-breaking comic Roberto Benigni, whose latest picture TheTiger and The Snow, wasn't ready in time for the Venice Film Festival, butwill be released by Rai Cinema label 01 Distribution on October 1.

For full Italian production listings, click here