Marco Mueller's new production company, Downtown Pictures, has unveiled a slate of 12 pictures, including the directorial debut of Italian actress Chiara Caselli and the first European movie by Hong Kong filmmaker Kirk Wong.

Downtown's first completed film is Turkish-Cypriot picture Fango (Mud) by Dervish Zaim. A satire about nationalism in the "last silent" European war, Fango was co-produced with Fabrica, and is strongly tipped for a slot in the upcoming Venice International Film Festival. It is being sold worldwide by Paris-based Films Distribution and distributed in italy by Istituto Luce.

It is also the first picture to be produced under a deal which Mueller, the former Locarno and Rotterdam festival boss, sealed with Rome's Rai Cinema.

The deal, signed in Venice last year, is a 2-year first look, non-exclusive production agreement which sees Rai Cinema invest in Italian and European pictures as well as pictures produced in other parts of the world, particularly focusing on new directors and territories.

Meanwhile, in October 2003, Bologna-based Downtown is to start production on theatre director Pippo Delbone's feature debut Voci (working title), a film written by Delbono and Lara Fremder (Garage Olimpo), which is set in contemporary Genova.

Shooting is also due to start this autumn on the feature debut of actress Chiara Caselli (Ripley's Game, Beyond the Clouds). Tentatively titled L'Isola, the film is co-written by Caselli, Monica Zapelli (Hundred Steps) and Le Huitieme Jour director Jaco Van Dormael. Through a parallel structure, it will tell the story of a woman named Anna in three periods of her life, at the age of 9, 27 and 84.

Both films have budgets of Euros 2-2.5m.

Currently in development is Marco Polo, the first European film from Kirk Wong, whose credits include Jackie Chan vehicle Crime Story and The Big Hit with Mark Wahlberg.

A homage to Shaolin fighters, Marco Polo is written by Valerio Evangelisti together with Fausto Brizzi (Christmas On The Nile) and Marco Martani.

Other projects on Downtown's slate are Pelle Dipinta (Huapi), a sexy political thriller by Chinese director Liu Bingjian; Dated (Casualties of Art) by Edo Bertoglio, the director behind Downtown 81 which featured Jean-Michel Basquiat; Il Colore Della Bassa, a first feature-length documentary from veteran photographer and filmmaker Giuseppe Morandi; Marco Martinelli's L'Orma Tagliata, a period drama about a witch doctor; Hinterlands, a sci-fi documentary by Gianfranco Rosi (Boatman); Sonaso, a film about the musical tradition in the south of Italy by Gianfranco Pannone; Backstage, a debut from experimental stage artist Pietro Babina; and Morire Di Piacere (To Die of Pleasure), a period vampire film.