Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi’s AMBI Group is behind the feature.

Actor David Henrie will make his feature directorial debut with the coming-of-age movie This Is the Year.

The pic follows a nebbish high school senior and his best friends as they embark on a road trip to attend the greatest music festival of the year in a last-ditch effort to win over the girl of his dreams. Henrie wrote the screenplay with Bug Hall, Pepe Portillo and Sienna Aqualini.

Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi’s AMBI Group is behind the feature, which is set to begin filming in September in Alabama.

James Henrie and Leo Severino will produce via Novo Media Group. Executive producers are Jason Weinberg, Luca Riemma and Paolo Aquilini, who is financing the movie with AMBI.

Iervolino’s TaTaTu, a blockchain-based social entertainment platform, will also produce and finance the film. TaTaTu is also involved in the AMBI projects Lamborghini, starring Antonio Banderas and Alec Baldwin, and The Sound of Freedom.

Said Henrie of the film, “I can’t wait to bring to life a heartfelt and fun movie in the vein of what John Hughes did so well in the ’80s. My hope is that it will truly mean something to our audience.”

Henrie, who is repped by ICM and Untitled, is best known for his role on the long-running Disney Channel series Wizards of Waverly Place. He also is set to play young Ronald Reagan in the Dennis Quaid-starrer Reagan.


Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi’s AMBI Media Group will fully finance the upcoming adaptation of J.M. Coetzee’s prize-winning novel “Waiting for the Barbarians.”

Ciro Guerra (“Embrace the Serpent,” “Birds of Passage”) is directing the film. AMBI Media Group will produce with Michael Fitzgerald and Olga Segura.

AMBI Group is a consortium of film development, production, finance and distribution companies wholly owned and operated by Iervolino and Monika Gomez del Campo Bacardi, Lady of Bayfield Hall, better known as “Monika Bacardi.”

Among the films on AMBI’s slate are the stock car racing film “Trading Paint” with John Travolta and Shania Twain; the romantic drama “Blue Night” with Sarah Jessica Parker, which just bowed at Tribeca; and “Lamborghini – The Legend” starring Antonio Banderas and Alec Baldwin.

“Waiting for the Barbarians” centers on the crisis of conscience of a magistrate from a small colonial town. After he witnesses the cruel treatment of prisoners of war, he begins to question imperialism. Coetzee is a Nobel laureate and Booker Prize winner whose work includes “Life & Times of Michael K” and “Disgrace.”

AMBI’s Andrea Iervolino stated, “’Waiting for the Barbarians’ is a rich story deserving of a big screen retelling, and Monika and I are very happy to join Michael and Olga to make this happen. We’re excited to get started on this production.”

Principal photography is slated to begin this fall in Europe and North Africa.



The 17th edition of the Tribeca Film Festival announced today their feature film lineup. On the robust list of features is the World Premiere of The Fourth Estate from Oscar-nominated director Liz Garbus. The documentary series, which follows the New York Times coverage of the Trump administration’s first year, will serve as the close the fest. Also making its World Premiere is Drake Doremus’ Zoe starring Ewan McGregor, Léa Seydoux, Rashida Jones, and Theo James. The sci-fi romance has been set as this year’s Centerpiece Gala. The Tribeca Film Festival takes place April 18-29.

Tribeca is known for championing the discovery of emerging voices and celebrating new work from established filmmaking talent — and they continue their mission with a feature slate that includes 96 films from 103 filmmakers. Of the 96 films, 46% of them are directed by women, the highest percentage in the fest’s history. The breakdown of the lineup goes as follows: 75 World Premieres, 5 International Premieres, 9 North American Premieres, 3 U.S. Premieres, and 4 New York Premieres from 27 countries. In addition, the program includes 46 first time filmmakers, with 18 returning directors. All of this from a whopping 8,789 submissions.

The 12-day festival will include the debut of 51 narratives and 45 documentaries. The Competition section features 12 documentaries, 10 U.S. narratives and 10 international narratives; 14 Spotlight Narratives, 15 Spotlight Documentaries; 5 Midnight, 16 Viewpoints selections; and 11 Special Screenings. This year’s Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival includes 5 documentaries and 1 narrative feature film, as well as a shorts program and more to be announced.

The Spotlight Narrative section is a launching pad for exciting new independent premieres with a focus on marquee filmmakers and performers.

Blue Night, directed by Fabien Constant, written by Laura Eason. Produced by Andrea Iervolino, Monika Bacardi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Alison Benson. (USA) – World Premiere. A devastating diagnosis sends a famous singer reeling through the streets of New York City in this French New Wave-inspired drama. With Sarah Jessica Parker, Simon Baker, Jacqueline Bisset, Common, Taylor Kinney, Renée Zellweger, Waleed Zuaiter.




VATICAN CITY – “Beyond the Sun,” a simple but effective English-language children’s adventure film in which Pope Francis plays himself, premiered Wednesday at the Vatican, signaling a clear attempt by the pontiff and his communications advisors to use movies as a medium to spread the Catholic message to the young.

The pic, in which Francis appears for roughly six minutes, marks the first time that a pope has appeared in a motion picture.

Shot in Patagonia and Vatican City, “Beyond the Sun” is about five kids who run away from home after catechism class and take to the woods to look for Jesus in a hilltop sanctuary. The multi-ethnic cast features child actors Aiden Cumming-Teicher, Cory Gruter-Andrew, Emma Duke, Kyle Breitkopf, and Sebastiάn Alexander Chou.

Co-directed by Graciela Rodriguez (pictured), an Argentine psychiatrist whose rapport with Francis goes back a long way, and Charlie Mainardi, who has shot commercials for Coca Cola, the pic screened for an audience of Vatican and Italian officials in the 50-seat Vatican Cinematheque. Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” premiered late last year in the same intimate setting.

The pope was expected but did not attend the screening because of the Mexico earthquake, according to producer Andrea Iervolino.

Rodriguez, who collaborated with Francis on social work projects when the pope was Jose Maria Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, said the film stems from his desire to communicate the message of Jesus to children through film.

“Pope Francis always says that he has to reach everybody with his message. He is a very modern person,” she said in an interview with Variety. “He knows that kids see movies and they are very visual,” she added.

Before “Beyond the Sun” went into production, Francis read the script, which Rodriguez wrote with input from Argentine bishop Monsignor Eduardo Garcia who, like her, worked with Bergoglio in Argentina for many years.

“The question I asked him [for the final scene] was: ‘How and where can children talk with Jesus?’” Rodriguez said.

The answer, in short, provided in the film’s unscripted finale in which Pope Francis talks to the kids, is: “By reading the Gospels.”

Iervolino said that setting up the Vatican shoot, including arranging cameras amid extensive security, took a day. “The pope’s part was just one scene and it was great,” he said, adding that it was “done in one take.”

Iervolino and Monika Bacardi, who financed and produced “Beyond the Sun” through their Los Angeles-based Ambi Media Group, are planning a small self-release of the film in the U.S. on Dec. 1 on roughly 150 screens, followed by an North American outing on other platforms, including TV, VOD and DVD, around Easter, Iervolino said.

The film will also get a tiny December theatrical release in Italy via Ambi after launching as special event from the Alice in the City children’s film sidebar of the Rome Film Festival in early November. Several deals are in place with unspecified distributors in other countries.

All proceeds from “Beyond the Sun” will go to Argentine charity El Buon Samaritano.


Taron Lexton’s sentimental road movie recounts a formative real(ish)-life vacation for screenwriter (and voice of Bart Simpson) Nancy Cartwright.
An idealized coming-of-age memoir in which a young woman’s disability-grade innocence doesn’t keep her from making the most of a solo sojourn across Italy, Taron Lexton’s In Search of Fellini speaks to and for women raised on cinematic fairy tales. Inspired by the experiences of Simpsons star Nancy Cartwright, who before creating the voice of Bart went off hunting the auteur of La Dolce Vita, it marks the thesp’s first screenplay (cowritten by another newbie, Peter Kjenaas). But however much its sentimentalized innocence stretches credulity, the overall production remains polished, and young dreamers who come across it in limited release may well embrace it.

Ksenia Solo plays Lucy, a blonde waif raised by a mother (Maria Bello’s Claire) who protected her from nearly every harsh reality life has to offer. Claire fails to protect Lucy from arthouse cinema, though: Upon stumbling into a screening of La Strada, Lucy sees a kindred spirit in sacrificial lamb Giulietta Masina. She falls hard for Fellini, gathering a stack of VHS tapes (the year is 1993) and absorbing the weird circus of his worldview.

The newly devoted fan picks up a phone, asks for directory assistance in Rome, and is connected to Fellini’s office. Is it impossible to believe she is offered a personal audience with il maestro at 3pm the following day? Perhaps. But we’ve already made it through a scene in which Lucy submitted a job application on which she drew a unicorn where she was supposed to write her name and address, so let’s roll with it.

Claire tells Lucy she can’t accompany her to Italy. Lucy doesn’t know what Aunt Carrie (Mary Lynn Rajskub) has sworn not to reveal: Claire is dying of cancer, and hopes this solo voyage will get her daughter used to the idea of surviving outside the nest.

The pretty American fares much better than a world traveler who does this many things wrong has any right to expect. She winds up in the wrong city not once but twice, losing all her luggage, but falls in with glamorous companions and is wowed by lushly-photographed sights. She meets an approachably handsome artist in Verona and is tastefully deflowered; she is sold rum bonbons by a shopkeeper who suggestively boasts, “it is said that I have the sweetest balls in Verona.”

The only really bad thing that happens to Lucy in Italy, in fact, occurs during a cross-cut montage that seems to inadvertently hint it is just a figment of her ailing mother’s imagination. Where the final minutes of the movie suffer from clumsy storytelling, most of what precedes them sits well within the romantic finding-oneself comfort zone, and Solo, while not able to imbue her character with Amelie-like spark, helps keep things from getting treacly.

By the end, the movie’s prefatory “based on a (mostly) true story” claim has come to sound like more of a stretch than usual, but such is memory. The transformational vacations that didn’t kill us or leave us with herpes can feel more charmed than they were after a couple of decades have passed. Especially if they involved plentiful pasta and a first encounter with 8 1/2.

Production company: Spotted Cow Entertainment

Distributor: AMBI Media Group

Cast: Ksenia Solo, Maria Bello, Mary Lynn Rajskub

Director: Taron Lexton

Screenwriters: Nancy Cartwright, Peter Kjenaas

Producers: Nancy Cartwright, Peter Kjenaas, Monica Gil, Michael Doven, Taron Lexton, Nathan Lorch, Milena Ferreira

Executive producers: Nancy Cartwright, Kevin J. Burke, Maria Bello, Monika Bacardi, Andrewa Iervolino

Director of photography: Kevin Garrison

Production designer: Todd Jeffery

Costume designers: Sienna Kay, Catherine Buyse Dian

Editors: Alexa Vier, K. Spencer Jones

Composer: David Camptbell

Casting directors: Lisa London, Catherine Stroud

R, 103 minutes