The timely pic set on the tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa, which thousands of mostly African refugees have been risking their lives to reach, won the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear earlier this year.
Rosi also won the Golden Lion in 2013 at the Venice Film Festival for his previous documentary, “Sacro GRA.”
Co-produced by Italy’s Rai Cinema, Istituto Luce, and Stemal Entertainment with Arte France Cinema, “Fire at Sea” has been widely sold around the world by Paris-based Doc & Film Intl. Kino Lorber is releasing it theatrically in the U.S.
“Fire” is not the only documentary being submitted for consideration in the foreign-language Oscar derby. Ukraine has submitted Roman Bondarchuk’s documentary “Ukranian Sheriffs.”
Rosi’s film is certainly Italy’s most high-profile picture to emerge on the festival circuit so far in 2016. No Italian films made the cut for Cannes competition this year, and those in the Venice competition were below par.
The standout Italian movie at the local box office has been smash hit “Quo Vado,” featuring comic sensation Checco Zalone, which earned 65 million euros ($73 million) at the box office, making it Italy’s all-time top homegrown hit. But “Quo Vado” is not exportable.
Italy last won a foreign-language Academy Award in 2014 with Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty,” which marked its 11th foreign-language Oscar and consolidated the country’s status as the world’s winner of the most statuettes in that category.
Nominations for the 89th Academy Awards will be announced Jan. 24.