Rai Cinema's new chief Caterina D'Amico says the film production arm will place a special emphasis on co-productions and to illustrate the point, Rai Cinema has just signed on as 25% partner of Spike Lee's $45m project Miracle at St. Anna, which begins shooting Monday at Cinecitta studios before moving on to locations in Tuscany. The cast features Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller, Christian Berkel, Michael Ealy, Valentina Cervi, Pierfrancesco Favino, Omero Antonutti, Derek Luke, James Gandolfini and John Leguizamo.

Miracle at St. Anna is a co-production with Italy's On My Own Productions headed by Luigi Mussini and Roberto Cicutto and Lee's own 40 Acres & a Mule Filmworks. The project was announced in July.

The high profile co-production project may be a sign of others to come. 'I want to increase production, this is certain. And, I want to encourage Italian producers to work with other producers abroad,' D'Amico told ScreenDaily.com.

She said she is particularly interested in increasing international co-productions and mentioned two as yet unspecified projects in the works with France and India.

D'Amico also told ScreenDaily.com she expects her 2008 budget to be in the Euros 65m range for film with Euro 40m slated for local projects and co-productions and Euros 25 m for acquisitions.

She'll have another Euros 150-160m slated for the acquisition of TV product to be aired on one of Rai's three channels. While a hefty portion of the budget will go to TV serials, cartoons and fiction, an un-specified portion will be used for acquisition of TV-only rights to films.

D'Amico also said that Rai Cinema would continue along its 30 films-per-year production slate: an important number in a nation that produces around 110 films per year.

D'Amico also confirmed other Italian projects in early pre-production including: Michele Placido's 1968-themed film with working title Il grande sogno; Marco Bellocchio's new film about the young Mussolini Marco Risi's new film on Neapolitan journalist Giancarlo Siani who was the object of a 1983 Camorra hit; and Ricky Tognazzi's adaptation of an unspecified work by beloved Italian author Giancarlo De Cataldo (Crime Novel).

Other previously announced Italian titles in the works are Oscar-winning director Gabriele Salvatore's The Rules of Love produced with Maurizio Totti's Colorado Film; Ferzan Ozpetek's Euros 7m feature Un giorno perfetto based on the book by Melania Mazzucco and produced with Domenico Procacci's Fandango.

Also, Sergio Rubini is currently shooting art-world thriller Colpo d'Occhio starring Rubini and Riccardo Scamarcio for Cattleya with Rai Cinema.
Rai is also active in distribution through their distribution arm, 01 Distribution, which is in fifth place with a 9.6% market to date in 2007.

The 2008 slate sees several strong Italian titles to be released in the first quarter including Pupi Avati's American project The Hideout (Il nascondiglio); Roberto Faenza's I vicere, Giuliano
Montaldo's San Pietroburgo; Antonello Grimaldi's Calm Chaos (a Fandango film) starring Nanni Moretti and two Cattleya projects produced with Rai Cinema including Cristina Comencini's race drama Black and White; and the directorial debut of Silvio Muccino (Gabriele Muccino's brother) Parlami d'Amore.

D'Amico came to Rai Cinema after the post was left vacant for over six months when previous chief Carlo Macchitella stepped down in the wake of corruption allegations.

D'Amico was previously dean of Italy's film school the Centro Sperimentale di Cinema.

While she is just getting started in the post, D'Amico admits, 'there is a lot to do in an industry that is rather depressed,' but she also says the type of work she'll do at Rai Cinema is not that far off from running a film school. 'I'll still be selecting projects,' she said.