Salvatores' 'I'm Not Scared' no longer a shoo-in

This article was corrected on September 28, 2003.

ROME — The race to become Italy’s foreign-language Oscar contender is heating up after the U.S. acquisitions of helmer Ferzan Ozpetek’s “Facing Window” by Sony Pictures Classics and director Pupi Avati’s “A Heart Elsewhere” by Northern Arts Entertainment.

Until recently, Gabriele Salvatores’ “I’m Not Scared” had been considered a shoo-in. Miramax nabbed it earlier this year in Berlin and has Oscar ambitions for the thriller, about a boy who uncovers a kidnapping. It will be released Stateside in the fall.

In mid-August, “Facing Window” producer Tilde Corsi complained that, given Miramax’s marketing muscle, she had no doubt Salvatores’ pic would be the country’s Oscar candidate. But, with ballots due Sept. 26, nobody is so sure anymore.

“Facing Window,” a tale of repressed romance that has grossed more than $10 million locally, and the bittersweet “Heart Elsewhere,” which unspooled at Cannes, both appear to be strong contenders.

“I’m Not Scared” was released too late in the year to compete in Italy’s David di Donatello awards, where “Facing Windows” took five nods, including picture, actor and actress, while Avati scored the director kudo for “Heart Elsewhere.”

The Donatellos are voted on by the same 480 industryites who pick Italy’s foreign-lingo Oscar candidate.

Two other pics have an outside chance, Marco Bellocchio’s terrorism drama “Good Morning, Night,” which does not have U.S. distribution, and Marco Tullio Giordana’s six-hour “Best of Youth,” which Miramax acquired in August.

Italy’s Oscar contender will be announced Sept. 30.

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