Founded in 1999 by former Medusa producers Riccardo Tozzi, Marco Chimenz and Giovanni Stabilini, Cattleya is proving itself to be one of the most dynamic independent production companies in Italy today.

On Tuesday, Tozzi announced a slate of high-profile films that the company is preparing for the 2003-2004 season, featuring such European stars as Sergio Castellito (The Hour Of Religion), Penelope Cruz and Sophie Marceau.

"European cinema is on the upswing and Italian cinema in particular," enthused Tozzi (pictured), stressing Cattleya's dedication to powerful and carefully constructed stories. "We are finally reclaiming a narrative strength that this country hasn't seen in 50 years," he added.

Set to begin shooting at the end of July is actor/director Castellito's Don't Move, about a neurosurgeon's accidental meeting and subsequent love affair with a derelict young woman (to be played by Cruz). The Euros 6m production will star Castellito as the doctor and is based on the novel by Castellito's wife, award-winning novelist Margaret Mazzantini. The film will be distributed by Medusa.

In August, rising young directorial talent Eros Puglielli (All the Knowledge In The World) will start his second feature, Occhi Di Cristallo (Crystal Eyes). Based on a novel by Luca Di Fulvio, the Euros 2.5m horror/thriller will star Luigi Lo Cascio (The Best Of Youth, The One Hundred Steps) as a police officer who must confront his own past in pursuing a killer. The film is a co-production with Rai Cinema and will be released by 01 Distribution.

In the autumn, another of Italy's A-list actor/directors, Michele Placido (A Journey Called Love) will begin shooting Sempre (Always). The mysterious love story will start local star Stefano Accorsi and will also be distributed by 01 Distribution.

For next year, Cattleya is developing the latest projects by independent stalwarts Francesca Archibugi (Tomorrow), Marco Tullio Giordana (recent Cannes winner for The Best Of Youth) and Cristina Comencini.

Archibugi's Lezioni Di Volo (Flying Lessons), says Tozzi, is "a story of initiation and love," about two young Italian losers who travel to India and meet a disillusioned French doctor (Sophie Marceau). The film, which is being scripted by Silvio Soldini's long-time writing partner, Doriana Leondeff (Bread And Tulips), will begin shooting early next year and will be mostly in English.

Hot off his Un Certain Regard prize for The Best Of Youth, Marco Tullio Giordana is currently preparing Romanzo Criminale (Crime Novel), which Tozzi hails as "the Italian Goodfellas." The film is based on a novel by Giancarlo De Cataldo and the script is currently being written by Stefano Rulli and Sandro Petraglia. Shooting is scheduled for late spring 2004.

The latest project by Cristina Comencini (The Best Day Of My Life) is My Right Hand, an Italian-German-English period piece on the tumultuous relationship between legendary 19th century musicians Clara Wieck and Robert Schumann, and is being scripted by Frederic Raphael (Eyes Wide Shut). The English-language drama is set to begin shooting next May in Germany.

Also scheduled for the end of next year is the still-untitled new film by Gianni Amelio (Stolen Children), about an Italian steel mill that is dismantled in Naples and rebuilt in China, and the friendship between one of the Neapolitan workers and his Chinese counterpart. The film is based on Ermanno Rea's novel entitled La Dimissione (The Termination)

"Italy is proving that, after a long hibernation of 20 years, we are able to get away from the state-subsidised [ghetto] to increase the producer's role in our filmmaking, and create world-class films that pay attention to the public and gain recognition on the international market," said Tozzi.

Cattleya is also currently in post-production with Paolo Virzi's upcoming Caterina In The Big City, starring Castellito, Margherita Buy (The Ignorant Fairies) and Claudio Amendola; and E' Gia Ieri (It's Already Yesterday) a remake of Harold Ramis' Groundhog Day, which stars local comic hero Antonio Albanese and Spanish star Goya Toledo.