After a near two-year freeze on state funding, which threwthe local industry into turmoil, Silvio Berlusconi's government hasgreenlighted nine Italian films and co-productions, including John Boorman'sEuros 26m Memoirs Of Hadrian.

The crisis which has crippled the Italian film sector forthe last two years is so bad that local film production is expected to plummetby 70% in 2005, with Italy producing only 28 films, down from 96 films in 2004and 98 pictures that were made in 2003.

In its first round of new funding, the government awarded atotal of Euros 13.5m to projects deemed of "national culturalinterest" through its Fondo di Garanzia funding scheme.

Titles receiving funds include veteran director MarioMonicelli's Le Rose Del Deserto (Euros 1.875m) and Roberto Faenza'supcoming Medusa title, I Giorni Del Abbandono (Euros 2.1m).

John Boorman's historical epic, Memoirs Of Hadrian,was awarded Euros 1.875m. The film, written by Valerio Massimo Manfredi andadapted from Marguerite Yourcenar's 1951 novel about the dying Roman leader, isco-produced by Rai Cinema, Movieweb and Istituto Luce. It will receive Euros1.5m in backing towards production, Euros 300,000 for distribution, and Euros75,000 towards international sales.

Other projects that have been greenlighted include FrancescaArchibugi's long-awaited Lezioni Di Volo (Euros 2.1m), Michele Soavi's Arrivederci,Amore Ciao (Euros 1.6m), Maurizio Sciarra's Sonata A Kreutzer (Euros1.8m) and After Midnight director Davide Ferrario's La Strada Di Levi(Euros 305,000).

The government's announcement follows several publicprotests from the Italian film sector, which has railed against massive cuts instate funding, prolonged delays in handing out money to projects that hadalready been approved, and a lack of financial incentives - all factors thatare believed to have contributed to the current crisis in Italian filmproduction.

Earlier this year, a group of first time directors, known asGruppo 16/12, took legal action against the government, after being told therewere insufficient funds to finance their 20 features which had been awardedpublic funds over a year ago. The filmmakers were invited to reapply forfunding this year.

The government has slashed its fund for the entertainmentindustry - which comprises film, theatre, dance and opera - from Euros 575m in2003 to Euros 464.5m in 2005.

The state will hand out around Euros 74m to the localproduction sector this year.