‘Gomorrah’ raises Oscar stakes

Producer aims for multiple categories

ROME — “Gomorrah” is gunning for Oscar gold.

Emboldened by positive Stateside reaction to Matteo Garrone’s naturalistic Neapolitan Mafia crimer, U.S. distributor IFC Films and producer Domenico Procacci have decided to submit Italy’s foreign-language Oscar contender for consideration in other categories of the Academy Awards.

To this end, Procacci told Variety that IFC has decided to release “Gomorrah” in Los Angeles county in December, ahead of its wider planned U.S. outing in early 2009.

“I know it’s a long shot, but I think the film deserves it,” Procacci said. Procacci added that he had particular hope for a possible adapted screenplay nod.

After scooping the Cannes Grand Prix prize in May, Garrone’s adaptation of journo Roberto Saviano’s best-selling expose has become Italy’s top local drama to date, with $14 million in grosses, and gone on to play well in Blighty and Gaul.

Saviano has been living under police protection for the past two years during which his indictment of Italy’s criminal underworld, now translated in 42 languages, sold a massive 1.2 million copies in Italy and made the notable books lists of New York Times and The Economist.

“Gomorrah” has been building buzz Stateside since unspooling at the Toronto, New York and AFI film fests and at the “New Films from Italy” event this week at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles. Martin Scorsese has reportedly lavished praised on the film and championed its U.S. release.

But the film’s starkness and brutal violence may put off more mainstream Academy members.

The last Italian film to campaign outside of the foreign Oscar category was Roberto Benigni’s “Life Is Beautiful,” which in 1998 besides that nod also took Academy Awards for best actor and music.

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