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Maria very ready to make her mark

ITALIAN actress and producer Maria Cucinotta is a frequent visitor to the annual Shanghai International Film Festival. Her first visit was in 2005, then two years later, she was invited to be a jury member for the festival's Golden Goblet awards.

She has a very tight schedule for this year's film festival where she can be found promoting the Italian film exhibition, or acting as an image ambassador for her favorite ice cream dessert.

In 2007, the actress, famous for her performance in the award-winning film "Il Postino" ("The Postman") and in the Bond film "The World is Not Enough" expressed a desire for a Chinese-Italian movie collaboration.

Now her wish has come true. She is working on a new film project with a Chinese scriptwriter and producers.

The film entitled "Italian Holiday" will be a modern version of the classic film "Roman Holiday" which starred Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.

Cucinotta will star and the film will be directed by Edoardo Ponti, Sophia Loren's son. The movie will present a re-interpretation of the classic love story.

"The Shanghai International Film Festival is getting better every year," Cucinotta says. "It is a good way to exchange cultures. I will also try to get more Chinese movies to Italy."

Born in the Sicilian town of Messina, Cucinotta started her career as a model in Milan. But her dreams of being an actress never stopped. She auditioned for a part on a television show in Rome, won a part as a glamorous woman and this marked the beginning of her acting career.

Comic roles have a big appeal to the actress because she hasn't had many yet. As well as "Italian Holiday" she will also star in the comedy "Looking for You" by an Argentinian film maker.

Her acting secret sounds simple, but is deceptively difficult -- "When you act, be real and natural."

Italy produces about 100 films every year. Though there is some funding for art-house films, Cucinotta says that it is still hard for these movies to find distribution. Hollywood productions have maintained their powerful influence on the Italian film market since the 1980s.

"Hollywood blockbusters really conquer the film market in many countries, a dilemma for many domestic film talents," she adds. "You know, a movie without audience is a movie without a heart."

She wants filmmakers from Italy and China to make low-budget films of high quality, keeping their audiences attached to their own culture and promoting the rich diversity of the cinema.

"Don't try to imitate the Hollywood big productions, just be original," Cucinotta says. "Visual and audio enjoyment is not always just what an audience wants from a film.

"A good movie can give you a good feeling. It can be very simple but heartwarming."


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