ROME — After winning top nods at the Cannes Critics’ Week, non-conventional Mafia thriller “Salvo,” by Italo helmers Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza, is scoring strong sales via Gaul’s Films Distribution, which has sealed deals for seven territories, including Italy, where there were fears the gender-bending pic would lack a theatrical release.

The directorial duo’s well-received first feature about a cold-blooded Palermo hitman, played by Palestinian thesp Saleh Bakri, who becomes emotionally entangled with his target’s blind younger sister, has to date been picked up by Pecadillo Pictures (U.K. and Ireland); Palace Films (Australia and New Zealand); Demiurg (Former Yugoslavia); H20 (Brazil); and the recently launched Italo shingle Good Films (Italy).

Salvo,” which was developed by the TorinoFilmLab and co-produced by Fabrizio Mosca’s Acaba Produzioni and Cristaldi Pictures with Gaul’s Mact Productions, Cite Film e ARTE France Cinema, scooped both the recent Cannes Critics’ Week Grand Prix and the Prix Revelation France 4.

Critics’ Week topper Charles Tesson in Cannes told Variety that “Salvo” symbolizes the renaissance of Italian cinema.

Still, despite its trumph, in the Italian film community there were fears the pic would never play in Italo movie theaters, where arthouse fare is increasingly struggling amid a crisis-ridden box-office climate.

After the fest, organizers of Italy’s top screenwriting prize, Premio Solinas, which “Salvo” had won, launched an appeal urging a local distributor to acquire the pic.

The last non-conventional Italo Mafia movie to screen at Cannes, and score nods, was Matteo Garrone’s 2008 global arthouse hit “Gomorrah.”

“Salvo” is neither an anti-Mafia expose like “Gomorrah” nor a heavily-referenced genre film a la Quentin Tarantino, according to Tesson.

Instead, “it mixes realism with film noir,” he said.

Launched in 2012, Good Films is a partnership between former Mikado topper Luigi Musini and Ginevra Elkann, Francesco Melzi d’Eril and Lorenzo Mieli. Its slate includes Kim Ki-duk’s 2012 Venice Golden Lion winner “Pieta.”

(John Hopewell and Elsa Keslassy contributed to this report)