Italy, Germany pick noms

Italy and Germany have chosen their entries for the Academy Awards’ best foreign-language film category.

Veteran director Pupi Avati’s bittersweet romantic comedy “The Best Man” has been chosen as Italy’s official submission. Germany has chosen Caroline Link’s “Jenseits der Stille” (Beyond Silence).

The Italo submission marks the first time in Avati’s prolific 30-year career that one of his films has been chosen to enter the Oscar race.

“At this point, I think we’ve earned it,” the director’s brother and producer Antonio Avati told Daily Variety. “I see this as a reward for the constancy and professionalism with which we have always operated within the Italian film industry, and for the solid craftsmanship we bring to our films.”

Set at the close of the 19th century, “The Best Man” centers on a young woman forced by her parents’ poverty to marry a man she doesn’t love but is smitten at the altar by his best man, a handsome, well-heeled local just back from 15 years in America.

The choice came as a surprise, given that Italian critics have not yet seen the Avati pic. “The Best Man” will not be released in Italy until February 1998. In order to qualify for the ANICA selection, the film opened for one day only in a town outside Rome last month, a move producer Avati says was prompted by the strong response from U.S. distribs to advance screenings during Mifed.

Produced by Antonio Avati for DueA Film and Aurelio De Laurentiis for Filmauro, the film stars Diego Abatantuono, who played the lead in the Oscar-winning “Mediterraneo,” and Ines Sastri. Italian release and international sales are through Filmauro.

“Jenseits der Stille” has collected a long list of honors in Germany, including several German Film Prizes and the 1997 Bavarian Film Prize’s Producer’s Award.

The story of the daughter of deaf parents who decides to become a musician, it became a surprise hit at the German box office last winter. Distributed domestically by Buena Vista Intl., the pic has sold over 1.75 million tickets in Germany. Bavaria Film Intl. handles world sales.

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