February 23, 2024

Beta Film has announced a half-dozen sales to European public broadcasters on high-end period drama “La Storia,” which is Italian pubcaster RAI’s biggest event show of the year and is world premiering at the Rome Film Fest. 

The sweeping eight-episode saga, set in Italy during the final years of World War II and its immediate aftermath, is based on a globally bestselling novel by the late great Elsa Morante, whom “My Brilliant Friend” author Elena Ferrante often cites as her primary literary reference.

Set mostly in Rome between 1940 and 1948, “La Storia” looks at fascism and Italy’s early postwar period through a female prism. Ida, a half Jewish widow with a teenage son named Nino, is raped by a drunken German soldier and gets pregnant with Useppe. The tale is centered on how she survives her predicament.

Ahead of the Rome Film Fest premiere of its first two episodes on Friday, Germany’s Beta has sold “La Storia” throughout Scandinavia to public broadcasters NRK for Norway, YLE for Finland, SVT for Sweden, DR for Denmark and RUV for Iceland, and to Slovakian pubcasters RTV and RTL.

Directed by Francesca Archibugi (“The Hummingbird”), the €17 million ($16.7 million) series stars Italian A-list actor Jasmine Trinca, who was a member of the 2022 Cannes jury. The cast also comprises Asia Argento (“xXx – Triple X”), Elio Germano (“Leopardi”) and Valerio Mastandrea (“Perfect Strangers”).

The director, whose “The Hummingbird” opened last year’s Rome Film Fest, underlined in an on set interview with Variety that “La Storia” is “a portrait of femininity and of motherhood.” But she also noted that in 1974, when the novel was published, “it was disliked by Italy’s feminists and Marxist critics, because it doesn’t depict history as class warfare.” By contrast, the book sold millions of copies.

For Trinca, who has never done a TV series before, “the biggest challenge” with “La Storia” was “to try to depict how simple people can make history without doing anything extraordinary: that’s my mission,” she said.

Trinca also added that “Ida is not an empowered female character. She’s not like some modern female characters,” but rather “she withstands the horrors of war quite passively, though she occasionally displays ferociously feline strength.”

Getting “La Storia” adapted for TV wasn’t an easy feat.

Producer Roberto Sessa, whose Picomedia is part of the multi-national Asacha Media Group, had to secure the rights from Morante’s heirs, one of whom is veteran Italian actor Carlo Cecchi, who was initially conceptually opposed to the novel’s serialization. Eventually, a treatment by the show’s screenwriters Francesco Piccolo (“My Brilliant Friend”), Giulia Calenda and Ilaria Macchia (“Petra”) dissipated his aversion to “La Storia” being made for TV.

Largely shot in outdoor locations in Rome, the surrounding region of Lazio and Naples, the show boasts a top notch below-the-line team with Ludovica Ferrario (“The Young Pope”) serving as set designer and Catherine Buyse (“The New Pope,” “Spiderman”) in charge of costume design. The cinematographer is Luca Bigazzi (“The Great Beauty”), who is giving “La Storia” a desaturated look that Archibugi has described as “not like what you might imagine: it’s vivid and sweet, and has a special tenderness that goes with the humanity of this story.”

“La Storia” is produced by Picomedia with France’s Thalie Images in co-production with Beta and in collaboration with RAI Fiction.

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