Domina – 2020

Sky Sets Ancient Rome Drama ‘Domina’ With Isabella Rossellini (Exclusive)

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Isabella Rossellini

The 10-part political period epic is being produced by Comcast-backed Sky Studios and Fifty Fathoms.

The power struggles of Ancient Rome — told through a female perspective — are to be dramatized for TV in a new original series from Comcast-owned European giant Sky.

Domina, being produced by Sky’s new production arm Sky Studios alongside Fifty Fathoms (Fortitude, The A Word), part of Endemol Shine, with Cattleya as exec producers, is a 10-part drama following the life and the extraordinary rise of Livia Drusilla, the mother of the emperor Tiberius, who overcame adversity to become the most powerful woman in the world. Filming started this week at Cinecittà Studios in Rome.

The series features Kasia Smutniak (Perfect StrangersThemDevils) playing Drusilla, supported by an international cast including Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) playing Livius, Livia’s father, and Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, Death Becomes Her) playing Balbina, an early enemy. Alongside them star Matthew McNulty (Misfits) as the future emperor Gaius, Christine Bottomley (The End of the F***ing World) as Scribonia, Colette Tchantcho (The Witcher) as Antigone, Ben Batt (Captain America: The First Avenger) as Agrippa, Enzo Cilenti (Free Fire) as Tiberius Claudius Nero, while Claire Forlani (Meet Joe Black) plays Claudia Octavia.

Domina follows Livia’s journey from a naïve young girl whose world crumbles in the wake of Julius Caesar’s assassination, to Rome’s most powerful and influential Empress, driven by a deep desire to avenge her father and secure power for her sons. Livia and her peers navigate their way through a brutal society by means of strategy, conspiracy, seduction and murder. This is a visceral and authentic family saga, grounded in historical accuracy and bringing to life the incredible true stories of the women who would create one of the most enduring and fascinating dynasties of all time.

Created and written by Simon Burke (ZenFortitude), the lead director is Australian filmmaker Claire McCarthy (OpheliaThe Luminaries).

The crew includes top Italian professionals: costumes will be designed by the Academy Award winning Gabriella Pescucci (The Age of InnocenceOnce Upon A Time in America), production design by Luca Tranchino (Prison Break), makeup by Katia Sisto (Penny Dreadful) and hair design by Claudia Catini (Trust).

“I am thrilled to be playing such a complex character as Livia Drusilla,” said Kasia Smutniak. “As a frontrunner in defending women’s rights, she was a tough woman who was both feared and cherished and was strong enough to seal the fate of the Roman Empire.”

Added Nicola Maccanico, Sky Italia’s executive vp programming: “Domina is an international production and we are very proud of its strong Italian roots. It is a great epic drama that brings to life ancient Rome again, but from a different perspective, that of the women, and reshapes our view of them. They are the masters of their fate and fiercely pursue their ambitions and ultimately the conquest of power. With Domina, Sky Studios will once again bring together major international artistic values and top Italian talents.”

Patrick Spence, managing director of Fifty Fathoms, added: “Simon’s scripts offer a unique opportunity to see Ancient Rome as it has never been shown before. Authentic, messy, visceral, and with the agenda-driven quietly, but ruthlessly by the women.”

Claire McCarthy, Domina lead director, said: “This period of Roman history is truth being stranger than fiction. I’m tremendously excited to bring this rich and visceral world to life with this incredible troupe of stellar actors and the gifted creative team. What an honor to be working out of Cinecittà studios too where so many of the greats have built cinema history.”

Domina is being executive produced by Spence, Marcus Wilson, Faye Dorn, Burke and McCarthy and produced by John Phillips.

The series will air exclusively in all Sky territories, in Italy, U.K., Ireland, Germany and Spain. NBCUniversal Global Distribution holds international rights in the rest of the world on behalf of Sky Studios.

Production underway.

Portrait of a Lady of Fire – Dec 6

As Orpheus led Eurydice out of Hades, why did he turn around to look for her just before getting out, and thus lose her forever? Was it because he made a poet’s choice that the memory of his love was enough, or was it perhaps Eurydice herself who called him to turn? The Greek myth is at the center of Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which won Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival this year and had its U.K. premiere at the BFI London Film Festival. Sciamma was invited to speak about her career as a film director and screenwriter at the festival’s Screen Talk, and discussed further her latest film.

Set in 1760 Brittany, on the northern coast of France, Portrait of a Lady on Fire recounts a beautiful love story between two young women. The film explores the different steps from desire to love and then eventually how one lets go until this love becomes a memory.

The film opens in an art class, as a female tutor, Marianne (played by Noémie Merlant), teaches young female artists how to look at their subject in order to draw. Marianne is a young female artist, who learnt her trade from her artist father, painting portraits of the wealthy for a living. The title of the film is the title of a painting she made, which one of her students has taken up to their classroom. The painting depicts a female figure in a darkened background with her dress on fire. As Marianne gazes longingly at her painting, the film sets about to tell us who this mysterious figure is, and how this painting came about.

Marianne met the lady on fire when she was invited by a countess (played by Valeria Golino) to paint a portrait of her daughter, Héloïse (played by Adèle Haenel), who has just come out of a convent after the death of her sister. The mother intends this portrait for her daughter’s betrothed who lives in Milan. As Héloïse refused to pose for the previous painter, the mother asks Marianne to pretend that she is a walking companion for her daughter, and to draw her from memory without Héloïse’s knowledge. Sciamma takes her time to reveal the face of Héloïse. Anticipation sets in, much like Marianne, who is eager to discover her subject.

However, cleverly, Sciamma does not make her protagonist fall in love with her subject on first sight, like so many films we have seen before. This is not the typical story of the painter falling in love, or lusting, over the image of the model. Marianne observes, scrutinizes Héloïse’s face, but fails her first drawing of her. The film suggests that desire between the two women does not begin when Marianne gazes at Héloïse to capture her every facial detail to memory. Desire rather starts when Héloïse returns her gaze. After Marianne reveals her real purpose, Héloïse agrees to pose for her. It is at that moment, as Héloïse sits for Marianne to paint her that desire rises between the two women.

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