Italy picks ‘Unknown’ for Oscar race

Tornatore pic sold to Outsider for U.S.

ROME — Giuseppe Tornatore’s white slavery noir “The Unknown” has been designated as Italy’s Oscar foreign-language submission.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles-based Outsider Pictures has acquired North American rights to the Tornatore thriller, which dominated Italy’s David di Donatello prizes earlier this year.

The indie distribbery co-headed by Paul Hudson and Peter Peterson inked the deal with Adriana Chiesa Enterprises for the dark Trieste-set tale considered a return to form for the helmer of “Cinema Paradiso,” winner of the foreign Oscar in 1990.

“The Unknown” stars Russian actress Xenia Rappoport as a secretive Eastern European prostitute-turned-cleaning lady haunted by her pimp. It comes six years after Tornatore’s softly erotic Monica Bellucci-starrer “Malena.”

Produced by Medusa, “The Unknown” launched from the Rome Film Festival last year. Welcomed by critics as Tornatore’s return to more substantial moviemaking, pic has enjoyed a nice run in Italy, and been sold to 78 territories.

Outsider Pictures, which has Raul Ruiz biopic “Klimt” currently on U.S. release, is planning to bow “The Unknown” theatrically Stateside in either February or March, said Chiesa.

The Italian Cultural Ministry has allocated Euros 150,000 ($211,000) to promote “The Unknown” in the Oscar race.

Italy’s motion picture association ANICA said in a statement that Tornatore’s pic narrowly beat out Daniele Luchetti’s generational comedy “My Brother Is an Only Child,” which ThinkFilm is releasing Stateside in March.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the foreign-language film nominations on Jan. 22. The Oscar ceremony takes place Feb. 24.

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