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Italy’s Oscar hopeful plugs film in Hollywood

Italian director Paolo Sorrentino was in Hollywood this month to promote his latest movie, which he is hoping will make it on to the foreign film Oscar nominees' shortlist.

Italy's Oscar hopeful plugs film in Hollywood
Paolo Sorrentino hopes his film, La Grande Bellezza, will be nominated for best foreign film at the Oscars. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

In an interview with AFP ahead of the Friday US release of "The Great Beauty," he told how its setting in Rome gave him a particular challenge – forgetting how masters such as Fellini captured the Eternal City before him.

The film, premiered in Cannes earlier this year, is Italy's candidate for foreign film Academy Award, in a long list that will be slashed down to five nominees on January 16th, when all the nominations are announced.

"The Great Beauty" evokes the decline of one side of Italy through the eyes of a cynical journalist played by Sorrentino's favorite actor Toni Servillo.

The director is returning to his homeland after a detour to the US for 2011's "This Must Be The Place" (2011) with Sean Penn.

Sorrentino, from Napoli, said the Italian capital was the obvious choice to set his latest project – but acknowledged the shadow of all the greats led by Fellini who have brought Rome to the big screen.

"I tried to imagine that it's the first film shot in this city and in these surroundings, about these people," he told AFP.

"Being a film buff can be dangerous: if you spend too long thinking about films that have already been made, it can paralyze you, because you constantly have these references in your head.

"So it's very important to make oneself believe that it's the one and only time that this has been done. Therefore I had to avoid watching other films or other ways in which the city has been presented."

The music which provides the film's soundtrack also evokes the city's "duality," mixing pop songs with madrigals.

"Rome is a city which has an enormous capacity to have the sacred and the profane side by side, and I had the same philosophy for the music. I tried to mix the two, and to see how they could work together," he said.

Among the most powerful scenes are orgiastic parties which the cynical journalist, Jep Gambardella, holds on his terrace overlooking the Colosseum.

"It was something new for me, as I had never filmed parties .. I really liked shooting it because I love watching people dancing. It's one of the things I want to see in a film, as a director."

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MAFIA

The Traitor: True story of mafia informant is Italy’s entry for the Oscars

Italy has picked the real-life story of a mafia informant to represent it at the 2020 Oscars.

The Traitor: True story of mafia informant is Italy's entry for the Oscars
Marco Bellocchio (L) and Pierfrancesco Favino, the director and star of The Traitor. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Il traditore ('The Traitor'), directed by veteran filmmaker Marco Bellocchio, was selected on Tuesday by Italy's national cinema association as its entry for Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards.

It stars Pierfrancesco Favino as Tommaso Buscetta, the first Sicilian mafia boss to turn pentito ('informant') on his former associates.

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The Palermo native climbed the ranks of the Cosa Nostra as a smuggler, first of cigarettes and then of drugs. But in the 1980s, disillusioned after years as a fugitive, multiple arrests, a prison sentence, and the deaths of several of his friends and family members – including two of his sons, whose bodies were never found – Buscetta revealed crucial details of the inner workings of the organization to crusading anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone.

His testimony would help Falcone and fellow prosecutor Paolo Borsellino convict more than 300 mafiosi at the infamous Maxi Trial, Italy's biggest and most successful anti-mafia prosecution in history.

Watch the trailer for The Traitor here:

Falcone and Borsellino were assassinated for their efforts in 1992, but Buscetta continued collaborating with the authorities, revealing links between organized crime and politics as well as the identity of brutal mafia boss Salvatore “Totò” Riina

He also testified at the so-called Pizza Connection Trial in the US, explaining how the Sicilian mafia would traffic drugs abroad and launder the profits via small businesses, many of them pizza parlours.

READ ALSO: How the brutal murder of an anti-mafia hero altered Sicily

His cooperation on the case allowed him to move to the US under witness protection, where he remained until his death from cancer in 2000 at the age of 71.

The Traitor covers the entire period from Buscetta's change of heart in the 1980s throughout his turns as star witness and into his later years.

“I tried to show a character who in my opinion isn't a hero but is a brave man,” director Bellocchio said. “He's a traitor, yes, but also a conservative – he's not aiming to change the world, rather to defend his past.”

The two-hour-plus biopic picked up seven prizes at the Nastri d'Argento film awards, the 'Italian Oscars', including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, and has made more than €4.7 million at the box office since its release in Italy in May.

READ ALSO: Around Sicily in ten classic Italian films

It comes out in the US in November. The Academy will decide on its shortlist of five contenders for the foreign film Oscar on January 13th, ahead of the ceremony on February 9th.

The last time an Italian film won the Oscar was in 2013, for Paolo Sorrentino's La grande bellezza ('The Great Beauty').

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