Seven films shortlisted for Italy’s Oscar entry

Seven films have been shortlisted to represent Italy at the Oscars next year, including Sorrentino's La grande bellezza, as well as works from lesser known Italian directors. But which one will make the final cut?

Seven films shortlisted for Italy's Oscar entry
Paolo Sorrentino’s La grande bellezza is among the films shortlisted for Italy's Oscar entry. Screengrab from the trailer for La grande bellezza: YouTube

A total of seven Italian films will be vying for the chance to represent Italy at the Oscars next year in the competition for Best Foreign Language Film.

A commission of Italian industry experts will now start the selection process, with the entry expected to be announced on January 16th next year. 

The films, which were all released in Italy between October 1st 2012 and September 30th 2013, range from Palme d’Or nominee Paolo Sorrentino’s La grande bellezza to lesser-known John Real’s Midway tra la vita e la morte (Midway between life and death).

Read more about Paolo Sorrentino and his film La grande bellezza

Other contenders include Valeria Golino’s Miele (Honey), Alessandro Gassman’s Razza bastarda (Bastard race), Antonio Piazza and Fabio Grassadonia’s Salvo, Maria Sole Tognazzi’s Viaggio sola (Lone voyage) and Roberto Andò’s Viva la libertà (Long live liberty).

John Real’s horror picture, which was only released in 29 movie theatres, half of them in Sicily, follows the story of a young couple who spend a spooky weekend in the woods with their friends.

“A very small distribution – it’s true,” Real, whose real name is Giovanni Marzagalli, told La Repubblica in an interview. “But I enjoyed good reviews and enthusiasm from the public.”

Nevertheless, the 24-year-old director hopes that his film, which cost less than €100,000 to make, will have an international appeal.

“It’s been a really long time since we [Italians] have made a film of this kind. I liked the idea of being able to present a new Italy abroad,” the director added.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Italy has won more foreign language Oscars than any other country, with 13 winning films.

The 86th edition of the Oscar ceremony itself will take place on Sunday March 2nd 2014. 

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Venice Film Festival fights for impact amid coronavirus curbs and cancellations

What if you threw a film festival and nobody came?

Venice Film Festival fights for impact amid coronavirus curbs and cancellations
File photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
That, in essence, is the challenge facing organisers of this year's Venice Film Festival, the glamorous annual competition where stars, critics, photographers and industry executives mingle on the bustling Lido, overlooking sandy beaches and the blue Adriatic.
Provided, of course, it's a normal year.
But in 2020, the world's oldest film festival is forced to walk a tightrope between preserving its lustre as the premier launch pad for Academy Award-winning films, while safely navigating the coronavirus crisis and averting the controversy over gender inequality that has dogged it in the past.
Opening Wednesday and continuing until September 12, the prestigious event now in its 77th year will be the first international film festival since the pandemic shuttered competitions around the world.
It has put in place a host of safety measures — from limited seating to thermal scanners, to a fan-free red carpet — to protect attendees as Covid-19 cases continue to climb in Italy and around the world.
In July, festival director Alberto Barbera declared the event “saved” as he announced the 18 films among the approximately 60 presented that would vie for the top award, the Golden Lion.
He promised that the festival would preserve the “liveliness of contemporary cinema”.
Despite its scaled-down size with theatre capacity reduced by about half, La Biennale di Venezia takes on greater importance this year due to the cancellation of rival film festivals across the globe, among them the glitzy Cannes Film Festival on the Cote d'Azur in France.
But just days ahead of the opening, organisers are scrambling to navigate uncharted territory amid uncertain attendance and last-minute cancellations.     
Whereas Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep and Scarlett Johansson provided the star firepower at last year's festival, ongoing travel restrictions — especially a travel ban from the United States into Europe — mean that most Hollywood elites will be no shows, along with actors and directors from China, India and South America.
Those arriving from outside Europe's Schengen zone will have to submit results of a Covid-19 test just before their departure, with a second test carried out in Venice, meaning that some attendees may have to cancel.
Earlier this week, the festival announced that American actor Matt Dillon would be a last-minute substitute on the jury for Romanian director Crisit Puiu.
No reason was given for Puiu's absence, but industry trade magazines noted he had given a speech earlier this month in which he said it was “inhumane” to watch movies with a mask on.
Those confirmed as attending include, among others, British actress Tilda Swinton, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, US director Oliver Stone and Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen.
More women directors
The uncertain lineup of stars and dearth of top names leaves Australian actress Cate Blanchett, president of the jury, to take up the mantle of celebrity — and social activism — at Venice.
Blanchett was the leader of the #MeToo women's march up the red carpet steps at Cannes two years ago that sought to bring attention to the lack of parity and diversity in cinema.
The presence of Blanchett helps raise such awareness while the festival seeks to stanch criticism levelled in recent years over the glaring lack of women directors in festivals' top lineups.
The Oscar-winning headliner told Variety magazine on Thursday that this year's eight women directors in the main competition lineup of Venice is “a direct response to the positive advances that have been made this year”.
Others say it is too early to tell whether a page has turned.
“It's all about being consistent and diligent and believing that women make movies as well as men, and using that in the way you programme,” said Melissa Silverstein, founder and publisher of “Women and Hollywood”, which advocates for gender diversity and inclusion in film.
Last year's festival opened under controversy after the inclusion in the lineup of French-Polish director Roman Polanski, who fled the United States after his 1977 conviction of rape of a 13-year-old girl.
There were also only two female directors in the selection. In both 2018 and 2017, only one female director was represented.   
Blanchett said more was riding on the jury's decisions this year, given the limited opportunities for filmmakers to show their work publicly, due to the coronavirus closures.
“So, whatever the deliberations the jury will make will be more impactful. I don't take that responsibility or privilege lightly.”