Pic won the special jury prize in Venice

MILAN — Emanuele Crialese’s immigration-themed “Terraferma” has been selected to represent Italy in the foreign-language Oscar race.

The passionate morality tale produced by Cattleya and RAI Cinema recently won the special jury prize in Venice and unspooled in Toronto.

Like Crialese’s “Respiro,” pic is set on a tiny island off the Sicilian coast where fishermen, abiding by the “law of the sea,” opt to rescue African boat people and end up in hot water with the local coast guard.

“Terraferma” is currently on release in Italy, where it has pulled $1.3 million in three weeks, at a time when uncommonly sunny weather has impacted local box office.

Since its Venice launch, sales company Elle Driver has inked several deals on the pic, including with Non Stop for Northern European territories, with Vertigo for Spain, and Conquest for Brazil. Talks are underway with HBO for Latin American territories.

A deal for all English-language territories on “Terraferma” is deemed imminent.

The Italian selection committee included helmers Marco Bellocchio and Luca Guadagnino, the topper of Italy’s state film department, Nicola Borrelli, distributor Valerio De Paolis, sales agent Paola Corvino and Variety Rome bureau chief Nick Vivarelli.

Nominations will be announced on Jan. 25. The 83rd Academy Awards will be held at the Kodak Theater on Feb. 27.

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