Special screenings of Luchino Visconti's masterpiece II Gattopardo (The Leopard) and other films will be held at Hanoi Cinematheque in honour of the 150th anniversary of the Italian unification.

Visconti's Il Gattopardo is based on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel of the same name and takes place in Sicily in 1860, during the deterioration and unification of the Italian city-states.

Released in 1963, the movie won a Golden Palm during the International Film festival in Cannes and was nominated for an Oscar.

The cast boasts some of the most important actors of that time, including Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale.

At the start of filming, Visconti was asked to cast a star in order to ensure that the movie earned enough money to justify its big budget.

His first choice was Nikolai Cherkasov, one of the former Soviet Union's pre-eminent actors who was at the time in no condition to take the part.

The director then set his hopes on Laurence Olivier, but he had already committed to a different role. While Visconti was busily searching for his star, the producers solicited legendary Hollywood actor Burt Lancaster without consulting him.

This move insulted the director and caused tension during filming, but Visconti and Lancaster ended up working well together and their resulting friendship lasted the rest of their lives.

The movie is still considered one of the most important and famous Italian films ever produced, said Damiano Francovigh, Deputy Head of Mission from the Italian Embassy in Hanoi.

Another film shown at Cinematheque will be The Second Wedding Night from director Pupi Avati, set during the first years of World War II. The film follows a single family in order to describe the dire situation of the Italian population.

The last movie, Miss F, tells a story of star-crossed lovers from different social backgrounds. It captures Italy during the late 70s and early 80s, at a challenging turning point in its history.

"Each of the movies is set up during a different period of Italian history, offering a different approach to themes that are deeply rooted in the Italian identity," said Damiano.

Screenings of the three films will be held on August 19 and 26 and September 1, beginning at 8pm with free entrance. Vietnamese translation via headphones will be available./.