Markingits first foray in animation production, Italian arthouse distributor Lucky Redhas boarded Azur Et Asmard, the next feature from Kirikou And TheSorceress director Michel Ocelot.

Azur EtAsmard explores the theme of tolerance as seen through the eyes ofa Western boy who travels to the Middle East to find his old nanny. There, hemeets another Westerner who tells him that he must pretend to be blind becausehe will scare the locals away with his blue eyes.

Christophe Rossignon's Paris-based Nord Ouest Productionsis producing the film, which will be delivered in 2006.

Lucky Redrecently made its first acquisition of an animation film, picking up Italianrights to Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, which world premieredat the Venice Film Festival last month.

TheRome-based arthouse distributor says that it had been actively looking to getinvolved in "intelligent animation" projects."

"We wanted to have a more well-rounded slate with filmsthat are able to do well theatrically as well as on DVD and video," saidStefano Massenzi, head of acquisitions at Lucky Red.

LuckyRed's production slate also includes Reinas (Queens), by Spanish BocaA Boca director Manuel Gomez Pereira. The Euros 4.5m picture, which iscurrently shooting in Madrid, takes place over a long weekend and features fourcouples preparing for a mass gay wedding. Marisa Paredes, Veronica Forque,Carmen Maura and Mercedes Sampietro co-star.

Fortissimohas all rights outside Italy and Spain, where Warner Bros will release thepicture in July 2005.

Lucky Redhead Andrea Occhipinti is also developing a new film by Three-Step Dancingdirector Salvatore Mereu. Entitled Sonetaula, the film is set inSardinia between 1938 and 1950, and is based on a novel by Giuseppe Fiori.

The Euros3.5m film focuses on a boy whose father is unjustly accused of murder and sentto prison. The boy is brought up by his grandfather, a shepherd, and grows upinto a bandit who is intent on revenge.

Lucky Redis currently also producing two documentaries: Prove D'Orchestra, whichis directed by Agostino Ferrente and tells of the creation of a multiculturalorchestra in Rome which is entirely formed by immigrant musicians. Occhipintiis co-producing with Bianca Film's Donatella Botti.

Lucky Redis also producing Affettivita e Sessualita', a documentary about thesexuality of gay and heterosexual handicapped people, which Occhipinti isco-producing with Gianluca Arcopinto.