Italo call to ‘Arms’

Olmi war drama sweeps Donatello prizes

ROME — Underlining the dearth of strong Italian titles during the past slow season, a film released a year ago swept the 2002 David di Donatellos, the country’s leading film awards, with director Ermanno Olmi’s “The Profession of Arms” collecting trophies in all nine categories in which it was nominated.

The Renaissance war drama about death and dignity was honored for best film and director, for producers Luigi Musini, Roberto Cicutto and Olmi, as well as for Olmi’s screenplay. The septuagenarian director previously won the top Donatello award in 1989 for “The Legend of the Holy Drinker.”

National pride

“I’d like to dedicate this award to Italian audiences and ask them to love their national cinema,” said Olmi, who received a standing ovation. “Often deservedly, films from other countries are at the top of our box office charts. But we should be proud of our cinema, which receives major recognition at festivals all over the world.”

A co-production of CinemaUndici, RAI Cinema, StudioCanal and Taurusproduktion and a surprise success at the Italian box office given its austere approach and weighty themes, “Arms” also won for original score, production design, costumes and editing, as well as for cinematography by the director’s son, Fabio Olmi.

Giancarlo Giannini took the best actor prize for his role as a middle-aged man with Down’s syndrome in “I Love You, Eugenio,” while actress kudos went to Marina Confalone for the comic fairy tale “Neapolitan Spell.” Stefania Sandrelli was named best supporting actress for “Sons and Daughters,” about the legacy of dictatorship in Argentina.

Political note

Newcomer Libero Di Rienzo landed supporting actor honors for comedy “Santa Maradona,” providing the only serious note in an otherwise lightweight ceremony that seemed more like a frothy TV variety show than a film industry celebration. Young thesp solemnly called attention to the blood being spilled in Israel and dedicated his award to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

A surprise hit last fall, “Santa Maradona,” about the bumpy transition from carefree youth to adulthood and responsibility, also earned the debuting director nod for Marco Ponti.

Despite receiving eight nominations each, Silvio Soldini’s “Burning in the Wind” was shut out of the honors list, while Giuseppe Piccioni’s “Light of My Eyes” won only in the sound category.

Coens score

Joel and Ethan Coen’s “The Man Who Wasn’t There” was named best foreign film, beating Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amelie” and Danis Tanovic’s Oscar winner “No Man’s Land.” Award was accepted by pic’s Scarlett Johansson.

Special guest performer during the Donatello ceremony at Cinecitta Studios Wednesday in Rome was Liza Minnelli, whose signature tune “New York, New York” served as a tribute to the wounded city.

The actress-entertainer was one of three career achievement award winners, along with veteran effects wiz Carlo Rambaldi and Franco Zeffirelli, the latter presented by Fanny Ardant, who stars in the director’s upcoming biopic “Callas Forever.”

In typically exuberant style, Roberto Benigni dedicated a special Donatello award to production and costume designer Danilo Donati, who died last year after completing work on Benigni’s “Pinocchio,” currently in post.

And the winners are:

Film: “The Profession of Arms”

Director: Ermanno Olmi, “The Profession of Arms”

Debuting director: Marco Ponti, “Santa Maradona”

Producer: Luigi Musini, Roberto Cicutto, Olmi, “The Profession of Arms”

Actor: Giancarlo Giannini, “I Love You, Eugenio”

Actress: Marina Confalone, “Neapolitan Spell”

Supporting actor: Libero Di Rienzo, “Santa Maradona”

Supporting actress: Stefania Sandrelli, “Sons and Daughters”

Screenplay: Olmi, “The Profession of Arms”

Cinematography: Fabio Olmi, “The Profession of Arms”

Editing: Paolo Cottignola, “The Profession of Arms”

Music: Fabio Vacchi, “The Profession of Arms”

Sound: Remo Ugolinelli, “Light of My Eyes”

Foreign film: “The Man Who Wasn’t There”

Career awards: Liza Minnelli, Carlo Rambaldi, Franco Zeffirelli

Special award: Danilo Donati

Best short film: “Non dire gatto,” Giorgio Tirabassi

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