Monday, November 08, 2004

Sithengi strives for a Cinema Paradiso through Italian connection

A year after sealing a film co-production treaty between South Africa and Italy - and buoyed by the success of Hotel Rwanda at the Toronto Film Festival which was financed on the back of this bilateral agreement - a strong Italian delegation will be back at Sithengi 2004 to seek new linkages with its southern partners.

And the spoils of the 2003 protocol are potentially huge. Hotel Rwanda, starring Nick Nolte and Joaquin Phoenix, was picked from stiff United States competition for the Audience award at the Toronto Film Festival where it recently premiered. The movie is due for release in Hollywood this December.

The film's initial success has given considerable zest to the Cape-Roma film pact and will add lustre to South Africa's producing capabilities in increasing complex terrain of film financing.

Amongst Sithengi panellists who will discuss Working With Italy (November 16th, 11h30 to 13h00 on the conference programme) is home-boy Izzy Codron, who was co-executive producer on Hotel Rwanda, according to the treaty structure. Wearing his South African Film Finance Corporation (SAFFCOR) cap, Codron can offer considerable insight into the detail of putting together production packages in terms of the treaty.

"Why is the treaty important?" he asks, rhetorically. "It gives us a foothold in the European Union and allows us to do tripartite productions with other EU countries that have European funding. (In the case of Hotel Rwanda) it gave us access to the UK."

Codron reckons that South Africans can learn a lot from the technical finesse of Italian filmmakers. "Technically, their crews are brilliant. They have fabulous cinematographers, fantastic directors and great writers."

Codron is likely to go ahead with another Italian co-production in 2005 through his company, The Imaginarium.

A mutual transfer of skill, experience and culture is underscored by the Italian Cinema Authors Guild (ANAC) which has numerous projects in the pipeline for South Africa.

ANAC Gregoretti has said that Sithengi will provide a favourable environment to implement and protect intellectual rights. The delegation will also look at new ways of financing "quality cinema". An Italian state fund would also be instituted directly for the purpose of fuelling production between South Africa and Italy.

Sithengi boasts a good showing of Italian films, including the in-competition The Consequences of Love, an existential thriller from director Paolo Sorrentino, who will also be on the panel. Other guests are Paolo Virzi whose film Caterina in the Big City, is showing in the World Cinema line-up, Francesco Munzi, director of one of the most acclaimed Italian films at the Venice Film Festival 2004, Andate e Ritorno/Round Trip; producers Domenico Procacci, Carlo Brancaleoni of Rai, Christiano Bortone (Saimir) and African Italian filmmaker, Alberto Ianuzzi.