Italy celebrates Cannes triumphs

Double win has film community ecstatic

ROME — Italy’s Cannes double whammy, the Grand Prix for Matteo Garrone’s “Gomorrah” and the Jury Prize for Paolo Sorrentino’s “Il Divo,” has the country’s film community ecstatic, just when a boost was most needed.

The nods, which mark the best Italo Cannes finale in many moons, were front page news with Rome’s La Repubblica trumpeting “Italy’s (cinematic) redemption,” while also underlining that both prized helmers are under 40.

“Suddenly, from a group of filmmakers who risked fading into simplistic, insignificant storylines and a made-for-TV mentality, springs a new generation of auteurs inspired by politically engaged masters like Elio Petri and Francesco Rosi,” enthused the Rome daily.

Rosi and Petri both won a Palme d’Or in 1972, sharing top honors for, respectively, “The Mattei Affair” and “The Working Class Goes to Heaven.” Both pics had strong sociopolitical thrusts like “Gomorrah,” a realistic rendition of the Naples mob underworld, and “Il Divo,” a biting biopic of seven-time Italo Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti.

“These two auteur movies are both very important for Italian cinema because they raise the quality bar and will have theatrical lives outside Italy; this was not a given from the outset,” “Il Divo” co-producer and distributor Andrea Occhipinti told Daily Variety.

“Gomorrah,” based on the eponymous bestselling Neapolitan Mafia expose by Roberto Saviano, which has been translated in 33 countries, has so far scored a whopping $7.5 million at the Italian box office over two frames. It has been sold by Fandango Portobello to 25 territories with a U.S. sale deemed imminent.

“Il Divo,” which opens on Wednesday in Italy via Lucky Red, will go out this fall in France via co-producer Studio Canal, while Artificial Eye picked up U.K. rights in Cannes from Beta Cinema, now expected to close a slew of other sales.

Italo Cannes juror Sergio Castellitto revealed that during final prize deliberations his colleagues teased him because he kept saying that by bestowing nods to both Garrone and Sorrentino the jury was actually also giving a third prize to Italian cinema as a whole.

“We (the jury) celebrated that same cinema, which only last year was considered on its deathbed because Italy didn’t have any films in the main competition,” said the thesp.

Both “Gomorrah” and “Il Divo” were partly financed by the center-left government that preceded current Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s re-election earlier this month.

Such a strong Italo Cannes showing at the outset of Berlusconi’s third mandate now bodes well that the film funding faucet will stay open, unlike during previous Berlusconi regimes.

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