The Italian Almanac

The Mission

Italian News / Movies - June 14

Fernando Ghia, a prominent Italian film and television producer known for his tenacity in bringing the award-winning 18th-century-set drama "The Mission" to the screen, has died at 69. Mr. Ghia, who had cancer, died in Rome, Ennio Morricone's memorable score for "The Mission" filled a packed church at Mr. Ghia's funeral and served as a fitting tribute.

The dashing Mr. Ghia, a Rome native who launched his movie career in the late 1950s, worked briefly as an actor and had a stint as an agent before launching a working partnership with his mentor, Italian producer Franco Cristaldi. As head of production for Cristaldi, Mr. Ghia made numerous films, including Federico Fellini's "Amarcord," Marco Bellocchio's "China Is Near" and "The Mattei Affair," a docudrama about the death of an Italian industrialist. Among his solo credits as a producer is "Lady Caroline Lamb," a 1972 romantic-drama written and directed by Robert Bolt.

After founding Pixit Productions in Rome, his credits included producing the 1997 television mini-series "Nostromo," an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's epic story of political upheaval, greed and romance in turn-of-the-20th-century South America. But Mr. Ghia may be best known for "The Mission," the 1986 winner of the Palme d'Or for best picture at the Cannes Film Festival.

The film co-starred Jeremy Irons as a Jesuit priest who builds a mission in the Brazilian jungle to bring God to the indigenous Indians, and Robert De Niro as a slave trader who is converted and joins Irons at his mission. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including best picture, "The Mission" won an Oscar for Chris Menges' stunning cinematography.

Mr. Ghia spent more than a decade attempting to bring the epic story to the screen.