Matteo Garrone’s gritty revenge drama “Dogman” was the big winner at Italy’s 63rd David di Donatello Awards, the country’s equivalent of the Oscars, taking home nine trophies Wednesday night from a field-beating 15 nominations.
Somewhat surprisingly, however, the sweep did not include a best-actor prize for Marcello Fonte, who had previously won that accolade at Cannes, where “Dogman” premiered, and more recently at the European Film Awards.
“Directing is important…but without great actors you don’t go anywhere,” said Garrone, who thanked Fonte and brought him up onstage.
“I started writing this movie 12 years ago,” Garrone added. “Then, while I was waiting to shoot ‘Pinocchio,’ I actually made it, and the result has gone beyond my expectations.”
Luca Guadagnino’s coming-of-age love story “Call Me by Your Name,” which went into the race with 13 nominations, left relatively empty-handed, winning awards for best adapted screenplay and original song. “Call Me by Your Name” was released in Italy in January 2018 and by now the buzz around it had kind of petered out.
Acting honors went to Elena Sofia Ricci, who plays Silvio Berlusconi’s now-estranged wife Veronica Lario in Paolo Sorrentino’s biopic “Loro,” and to Alessandro Borghi for his performance as a young Roman who dies after being viciously beaten by Italian military police in “On My Skin,” directed by newcomer Alessio Cremonini.
“On My Skin” was the evening’s big surprise, with Cremonini scooping the prize for best first work and the film also winning the best producer award. “On My Skin” premiered in Venice last year and was subsequently released in Italian cinemas and on Netflix, which caused some controversy. Accepting their awards, producers Olivia Musini for Cinemaundici and Lucky Red chief Andrea Occhipinti thanked Netflix for distributing the film in 190 countries.
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Cremonini received his trophy from Tim Burton, who was honored with a career award that dovetailed with his being in Italy to promote his live-action “Dumbo” remake, which was given a nice plug during the ceremony.
“I’m not Italian, but I talk with my hands,” Burton said. “And now I feel like I have a weird Italian family.”
Burton was handed his David by actor-director Roberto Benigni, who is now starring as Geppetto in Garrone’s live-action “Pinocchio,” currently shooting at Cinecittà Studios.
Nanni Moretti won the best documentary David for “Santiago, Italia” about how the Italian embassy in Santiago gave asylum to scared Chileans during the country’s 1973 coup d’etat.
Piera Detassis, the president of the awards, and others in the Italian industry had said they were pleased that, for the first time, two female directors, Alice Rohrwacher and Valerio Golino, were in the running in both the best picture and best director categories, for “Happy as Lazzaro” and “Euphoria,” respectively. However, they both came away empty-handed.
The improved gender balance in this year’s nominations is due at least in part to a radical overhaul being implemented by Detassis, the first woman to head the prizes, which started in 1955. She has slimmed down the number of Italian Academy voters, and improved its gender makeup. Currently, there are 1,097 male and 450 female voters. Detassis called it “a small step forward.”
Detassis also introduced a new prize for the Italian pic that scored the most box-office admissions, which was won by Gabriele Muccino’s ensemble dramedy “There Is No Place Like Home.” With 1.43 million tickets sold, the film marked a major comeback for the Italian director who made a splash in Hollywood with Will Smith-starrers “Pursuit of Happyness” and “Seven Pounds.”
The Davids ceremony was attended by director Alfonso Cuaron, who won the David for best foreign film for “Roma.” Cuaron noted that “Roma,” released by Netflix in Italy, played in the country’s cinemas “for four months.”
Uma Thurman, horror master Dario Argento and production designer Francesca Lo Schiavo, who works in tandem with her husband, Dante Ferretti, were all honored with Special Davids.
Thurman reminisced about how her career started in Italy at Cinecittà Studios working on Terry Gilliam’s “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” which “went over budget,” she recalled.
Argento, who received a standing ovation, had never actually been nominated for a David in his long career. He pointed out the omission in his acceptance speech, and thanked Detassis for trying to make up for it.
Of Lo Schiavo, who has shared three Oscars with Ferretti, Detassis said she thought “it was important for her to be on stage by herself….I think she deserved a prize on her own.”
Tributes were also paid to late great auteur Bernardo Bertolucci and hit comedy helmer Carlo Vanzina.
The ceremony, aired live on pubcaster RAI, was marked by an upbeat mood, with singer Andrea Bocelli performing the “Gladiator” theme “Now We Are Free” and also singing a duet with his son Matteo.
However, moviegoing in Italy last year hit a dramatic low, with ticket sales plunging below 90 million for the first time in a decade. The start of 2019 hasn’t been encouraging either, with about a 10% dip in January and February compared with the same period in 2018. A new initiative is underway to release more blockbusters in summer, when Italians are known to shun moviegoing.
Here’s the complete list of David Awards winners:
Matteo Garrone, “Dogman”
Matteo Garrone, “Dogman”
Alessio Cremonini, “On My Skin”
Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso, Ugo Chiti, “Dogman”
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
James Ivory, Luca Guadagnino, Walter Fasano “Call Me By Your Name”
Cinema Undici, Lucky Red for “Under My Skin”
Elena Sofia Ricci “Loro”
Alessandro Borghi “On My Skin”
Marina Confalone, “The Vice of Hope”
Edoardo Pesce, “Dogman”
Nicolaj Bruel, “Dogman”
Marco Spoletini, “Dogman”
“Santiago, Italia” Nanni Moretti
Sasha Ring and Philipp Thimm, “Capri Revolution”
“Mystery Of Love,” Sufjan Stevens, “Call Me By Your Name”
Dimitri Capuani “Dogman”
Ursula Patzak, “Capri, Revolution”
Dalia Colli, Lorenzo Tamburini, “Dogman”
Aldo Signoretti, “Loro”
Victor Perez, “The Invisible Boy – Second Generation”
Maricetta Lombardo, Alessandro Molaioli, Davide Favargiotti, Mauro Eusepi, Mirko Perri, Michele Mazzucco, “Dogman”
“There Is No Place Like Home,” Gabriele Muccino
BEST FOREIGN FILM
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuaron
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT DAVID
Francesca Lo Schiavo