Shallcross-James feature “Uncle Nino”
premieres Oct. 31 at IFP Conference

Joe Mantegna and Anne Archer star in “Uncle Nino”

David James doesn’t want to open his film in New York or Los Angeles.

The producer of the Chicago-made feature “Uncle Nino” is holding a limited “test” release of the picture in Michigan beginning Dec. 5. It opens the IFP Filmmakers Conference Oct. 31.

“It needs to be platformed in markets that support this kind of material,” James said. “It’s not about sex, drugs and rock and roll.”

Pierrino Mascarino plays the title character, an Italian man who moves in with his nephew Robert (Joe Mantegna) and helps reinvigorate Robert’s troubled family life. “Nino quietly folds himself into the family and uses simple things to glue the family together,” James said.

“Nino,” written and directed by Robert Shallcross, won the Crystal Heart Award in its world premiere at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis in mid-October. “We waited for the festival to premiere because Heartland is about celebrating the positive values of life, and that’s what ?Uncle Nino’ is all about,” James said.

James is carefully weighing distribution offers, looking for the distributor that will best reach the picture’s audience. The Michigan self-release will play a large role in determining the theatrical future of the film.

“We need to partner with someone who’s going to treat the film right,” James said. “If we can show it’s supported by an audience, it will elevate the stature of the film.”

James is hoping for a theatrical run in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Rhode Island and upstate New York, all markets with large Italian-American populations.

James and Shallcross’ Kick the Can Productions financed “Uncle Nino” from a single backer and shot the picture in the Chicago area and in Italy in summer 2002. “Nino” is Kick the Can’s second feature after Shallcross’ 2000 family comedy “Bored Silly.”

James said Shallcross was inspired to write the ?Nino’ while working in Italy in the late ?90s. “It came out of observing how different Europeans and Americans are in their ways of life,” James said. “They work to live and we live to work.”

“Uncle Nino” screens at 7 p.m. at the IFP Conference, at the School of the Art Institute auditorium, 280 S. Columbus. Tickets are $10 for the screening, $25 for the screening and party, or can be obtained with a conference pass. See for details. Reach James at by Ed M. Koziarski,